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Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, October 2015

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Speaker of the United States House of Representatives election, October 2015
United States House of Representatives
← January 2015 October 29, 2015 (2015-10-29) 2017 →

435 eligible voting members of the U.S. House of Representatives
432 votes cast

217 seats needed for a majority
  Majority party Minority party
  Paul Ryan 113th Congress.jpg Nancy Pelosi 113th Congress 2013.jpg
Candidate Paul Ryan Nancy Pelosi
Party Republican Democratic
Leader's seat Wisconsin's 1st California's 12th
Members' vote 236 184

Speaker before election

John Boehner
Republican

Elected Speaker

Paul Ryan
Republican

An election for the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives took place on October 29, 2015, during the 114th U.S. Congress.[1] The election was necessitated by the announcement of Speaker John Boehner's resignation, set for October 30.[2] The Speaker of the House follows the Vice President in the line of succession to the presidency of the United States in accordance with the Presidential Succession Act.

Due to friction within the Republican Party caucus, Boehner decided to step down as speaker and resign his seat in Congress. He scheduled a Republican caucus non-binding vote for speaker on October 8, and a full floor vote on October 29. Kevin McCarthy, the House Majority Leader and second-in-command to the Speaker, was initially viewed as the favorite to win the Speakership. However, due to the opposition of the Freedom Caucus, McCarthy dropped out of the race on October 8, and the caucus vote was postponed.

Jason Chaffetz initially declared his candidacy to challenge McCarthy, and Bill Flores declared his candidacy after McCarthy withdrew, but both dropped out later to express their support for Paul Ryan, who entered the race after being widely viewed as a potential frontrunner. Daniel Webster of the Republican Party and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the Democratic Party were also declared candidates. Ryan won the rescheduled caucus vote on October 28, and was elected Speaker of the House the next day, with 236 votes to Pelosi's 184 and Webster's 9. Three votes went to undeclared candidates.

Background[edit]

Process and conventions[edit]

The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is the presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives, and is second in the United States presidential line of succession, after the Vice President and ahead of the President pro tempore of the United States Senate.[3] Though the Constitution does not require that the Speaker be an elected member of the House of Representatives, every Speaker to date has been elected from House membership.[4]

The 435 members of the House of Representatives elect a Speaker by majority rule at the beginning of each session of the United States Congress, who serves until the end of the Congress. Typically, the election is a formality, as the majority party's members vote as a bloc for their party's previously-chosen Speaker-designate (such as the speaker, majority leader, or minority leader from the previous term). Open elections are uncommon but have occurred. The last Speaker election to require multiple ballots occurred in 1923.[5]

Speakership and resignation of John Boehner[edit]

John Boehner, a member of the Republican Party from Ohio, served as the Majority Leader of the United States House of Representatives from February 2006 until January 2007. As the Democratic Party assumed control of the House following the 2006 elections, Boehner served as Minority Leader from January 2007 until January 2011. When Republicans reassumed control of the House of Representatives in January 2011, Boehner was elected as Speaker, with the votes of all 241 of his fellow Republicans.[6] In 2014, some House Republicans reached out to Ben Carson about his interest in becoming Speaker should they be able to oust Boehner; Carson declined, citing his impending candidacy for president.[7] Boehner's Republican opponents formed a congressional caucus, called the Freedom Caucus, in January 2015 to focus their opposition.[8] Though Boehner was reelected as Speaker at the beginning of the 114th United States Congress that month, 25 conservative members of the Republican caucus did not vote for him. Daniel Webster, a Republican from Florida, received 12 votes.[9]

Throughout 2015, Boehner and the Freedom Caucus remained at odds. Boehner stripped his opponents of leadership posts and other perks, while the American Action Network, a group allied with Boehner, aired television ads against Freedom Caucus members in their home districts. Meanwhile, the Freedom Caucus opposing Boehner's plans, forcing him to rely on Democratic votes to pass bills.[8] Needing to pass a federal budget for the 2016 fiscal year beginning October 1, the Freedom Caucus, now consisting of approximately 40 conservative Republicans affiliated with the Tea Party movement, threatened to block a resolution from passing unless it would defund Planned Parenthood and to initiate a vote to vacate the speakership if Boehner did not support their demands.[10][11] The caucus sought the following promises: (1) the decentralization of the House Steering Committee, so that the Speaker and House Majority Leader are not solely in charge of committee assignments, (2) not supporting an increase in the U.S. debt ceiling without entitlement reform, (3) willingness to impeach John Koskinen, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and (4) passing spending bills approved by the caucus rather than a continuing resolution favored by Democrats in the United States Senate.[12]

On July 28, 2015, Mark Meadows, a member of the Freedom Caucus from North Carolina, filed a motion to vacate the speakership, only the second time the motion had been filed. The next day, Boehner referred to the motion as "no big deal."[8] However, following continued pressure from the Freedom Caucus, and to avoid the vacation of his speakership, Boehner announced on September 25 that he would resign the Speakership and retire from Congress effective October 30. Sources from his office indicated he chose to resign due to the increasing discord within the Republican caucus so that he could manage passage of a continuing resolution to fund the government and avoid a government shutdown.[2]

Candidates[edit]

On September 28, Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Majority Leader, and Webster announced that they would run for Speaker of the House.[13][14] McCarthy was considered the presumptive favorite in the race.[15][16] Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah and the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, announced his candidacy on October 4, claiming that McCarthy did not have the votes to win the election.[17] Several Republicans urged Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the running mate of Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election, to run for Speaker, but he declined, saying he is a "policy guy" with a preference to focus on his role as Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.[18]

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who served as the Speaker from January 2007 through January 2011, asked her Democratic colleagues for their vote in the election.[19] Steny Hoyer, the House Minority Whip, said that he expected that the "overwhelming majority" of Democrats to vote for Pelosi. He said that if a Republican could not get the votes needed, Democrats could consider their options.[20]

On October 7, the day before the Republican caucus scheduled a non-binding vote for speaker, Ryan and former Vice President Dick Cheney endorsed McCarthy,[21][22] as did 11 of the 13 House Republicans from Pennsylvania.[23] The Freedom Caucus decided to endorse Webster in the race.[24] Other Republicans said they would vote against McCarthy, including Thomas Massie of Kentucky, who called McCarthy "absolutely not an option" because of his previous role as Boehner's "right-hand man".[25] Also, Walter B. Jones, Jr. of North Carolina sent a letter to the Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers stating that any candidates for a leadership position with "misdeeds" should withdraw from the race. Jones has stated that his comment did not specifically refer to McCarthy,[26] but it was widely seen as referring to rumors that McCarthy had been committing an extramarital affair with a fellow Representative, a rumor that both have denied; the basis for such an allegation and interpretation is unclear.[27][28][29]

Citing opposition from within the Republican Party, as well as fallout from controversial comments he made about the United States House Select Committee on Benghazi, McCarthy dropped out of the race on October 8.[30][31] Following McCarthy's departure from the race, Republicans renewed their efforts to recruit Ryan as a candidate.[32] Boehner personally called Ryan twice to ask him to run,[33] and Chaffetz said that he would not run against Ryan if he chose to enter the race.[34] Ryan also received calls from Mitt Romney and Trey Gowdy, among others, encouraging him to run for Speaker.[35][36] Additional Ryan endorsements came from Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, 2016 Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise from Louisiana.[37][38][39] On October 9, close aides of Ryan confirmed that Ryan was reconsidering the possibility of a run.[33][40]

A possible Ryan candidacy received support from the same Freedom Caucus that opposed Boehner and McCarthy. Meadows said on October 11 that Ryan running would "definitely change the equation," and Chairman Jim Jordan described Ryan as "a good man," and stated that the Freedom Caucus would view a Ryan run "favorably."[41][42][43]

Others who expressed their interest in running included Texas representatives Bill Flores[44][45][46] and Michael McCaul,[47] Georgia representative Lynn Westmoreland,[48][49] Montana representative Ryan Zinke,[50] and California representative and former Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa.[51][52] However, several candidates made clear that they would only run if Ryan chose not to, including Issa, McCaul, and Minnesota representative John Kline.[53][54][55] On October 12, Flores confirmed that he would run for Speaker, but stated that he would run only if Ryan stayed out of the contest.[56]

Ryan held a closed-door meeting with the Republican Caucus on October 20, where he explained that he would run for Speaker if he could be guaranteed an overwhelming majority of the Republican caucus would support him.[57] Specifically, Ryan requested an increased threshold for the political maneuver of vacating the Speakership, stated that he would not lessen the amount of time he spends with his family, and requested an official endorsement from the Freedom Caucus, Republican Study Committee, and The Tuesday Group by October 23, before he could make his decision.[58][59] Immediately after Ryan's announcement, Chaffetz announced that he would be dropping out of the race to support Ryan.[60] The next day, the Freedom Caucus held a vote to determine which of its members would support Ryan; although the exact tally was not revealed, roughly two-thirds of the caucus voted to endorse Ryan. Although this was shy of the 80% vote needed for an official endorsement over Webster, both the caucus leaders and Ryan were satisfied with the result, and Ryan made efforts to move forward with a potential Speaker bid.[61][62]

On October 22, Ryan announced his bid for Speaker.[63][64][65] Flores, who chairs the Republican Study Committee, dropped out of the race and endorsed Ryan.[66] Mo Brooks of Alabama, a member of the Freedom Caucus, announced on the floor of the House on October 27 that Ryan had agreed not to advance immigration reform legislation while Barack Obama is President of the United States, or unless it meets the "Hastert Rule," as it has the support of the majority of Republicans.[67]

Declared[edit]

The following officially declared their candidacy:

Publicly expressed interest[edit]

The following publicly expressed interest in becoming candidates:

Received speculation[edit]

The following received speculation about a possible candidacy in at least two reliable sources:

Withdrawn[edit]

The following were candidates, but subsequently withdrew:

Declined to run[edit]

The following received some speculation about a possible candidacy, but subsequently ruled themselves out:

Election[edit]

Ryan watching the floor vote electing him as Speaker of the House

House Republicans planned to hold a non-binding caucus vote on October 8,[91] followed by the official floor vote on October 29. The winning candidate requires a 218-vote majority to win. Multiple ballots may be cast if the majority of the House cannot agree on a candidate.[17][24] While McCarthy and Chaffetz both said they would vote for the winner of the caucus vote in the floor vote, Webster did not make the same promise.[92]

Following McCarthy dropping out of the race on October 8, the caucus vote was indefinitely postponed.[93] Massie and Peter T. King referred to the House as a "banana republic."[94][95] Massie also criticized Boehner for postponing the election, saying they "called off the election because they didn’t like the result," which was echoed by Tom Rice, Louie Gohmert, and Justin Amash. McMorris Rodgers and Conference Vice Chairwoman Lynn Jenkins defended Boehner, saying the matter was handled properly, as conference rules give him sole discretion.[94] Rich Lowry of National Review asked McCarthy in a phone interview if the House was governable, to which McCarthy replied "I don’t know. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom."[96] Charlie Dent, a Republican from Pennsylvania who had supported McCarthy, suggested that if Republicans are unable to agree on a candidate, the best option might be for a bipartisan coalition to select a Speaker.[97]

Once it appeared certain that Ryan would run, and win an overwhelming majority of the caucus's votes, Boehner rescheduled the Republican caucus vote for October 28.[98] Ryan won the nomination, defeating Webster 200 to 43 in the secret ballot voting.[99][100] Blackburn and McCarthy each received one vote.[101] The next day, Webster reportedly urged Republicans to vote for Ryan instead of him.[102]

Final result[edit]

On October 29, Ryan was elected Speaker with 236 of the 432 votes cast. Others receiving votes were Pelosi (184), Webster (9), Jim Cooper, John Lewis, and Colin Powell (1 each).[103] Votes were cast by 432 of the 435 House members.[104]

Following the election, Raúl Labrador, a Freedom Caucus member from Idaho, said that Ryan will need to "realize the honeymoon is over and start bringing us some conservative policy," and that "the final exam for Paul Ryan will be in January 2017, when there is a Speaker election, and we will look at his body of work and determine whether he gets a passing grade or not."[8]

Candidate Votes  %
Paul Ryan (R) 236 54.3%
Nancy Pelosi (D) 184 42.3%
Dan Webster (R) 9 2.0%
Colin Powell (R)[a] 1 0.2%
Jim Cooper (D) 1 0.2%
John Lewis (D) 1 0.2%
Total 432 100.0%
Not voting 3 0.7%
  1. ^ Not a sitting member of the House of Representatives.

References[edit]

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  3. ^ 3 U.S.C. § 19
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