Muhlenberg weighs in on speaker race turned marathon

After three weeks, a House speaker was finally elected

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After almost three weeks without a speaker of the House, the third in line to the presidency, Republicans in the House of Representatives elected Mike Johnson (LA-04). However, this process garnered criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike as the caucus failed to elect several previous candidates since Kevin McCarthy’s (CA-20) removal from the speaker position on Oct. 3. 

Maya Brooks ‘24 simply stated, “It’s all the worst people running for the worst job in America.”

McCarthy had previously made history with his 15th ballot battle to be speaker in Jan. 2023. Congressman Matt Gaetz, a member of the Freedom Caucus, filed for a motion to vacate following McCarthy’s working with democrats on a bipartisan continuing resolution to extend funding for the government until Nov. 17.

“The nearly three weeks without a speaker highlighted the major divides within the Republican Caucus in the House. Starting with the ouster of Kevin McCarthy that was enabled by rule changes orchestrated by a relatively small number of GOP representatives, through failed bids by members representing varied cohorts [within] the Republican Caucus, the divides within the party were highlighted,” said Chris Borick, Ph.D., professor of political science and director of the Institute of Public Opinion. 

It then seemed that House Majority Leader Steve Scalise would be the new speaker, but failed to win enough votes, as the slim Republican majority needed only four “no” votes to fail to elect a speaker. 

The next candidate was Jim Jordan, widely known as one of Former President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters, who did not believe the 2020 presidential election results. In the past, Jordan has garnered criticism from the left and right alike for his involvement in the 2013 government shutdown. He additionally faced serious allegations of complicity in a sexual abuse scandal when he worked as an assistant coach on Ohio State’s wrestling team. 

CNN reported around 12:45 p.m. on Oct. 24 that Tom Emmer of Minnesota was selected as the next speaker nominee by the House Republicans. By 4:30 p.m. the same day, Emmer had dropped out of the race after failing to persuade any votes against him to change. This occurred after Trump came out against Emmer on Truth Social, a social media platform founded by Trump in 2021, saying, “I have many wonderful friends wanting to be speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors. RINO [Republican in Name Only] Tom Emmer, who I do not know well, is not one of them.” 

Congress is facing the rapidly approaching Nov. 17 deadline to fund the government and debating whether to provide funding for international conflicts in Ukraine and Israel. This lapse in leadership may have more effects on the lives and interests of Muhlenberg students and faculty, as it is considered to be a politically active and aware campus.

Max Makovsky ‘24 said, “What affects Muhlenberg students most directly isn’t the foreign policy itself, but rather the international or domestic events which dictate foreign policy. Case and point is the outbreak of war in Israel and the impact it has had on both the student population, and US foreign policy interests. A dysfunctional government could embolden enemies which could lead to events detrimental to both American foreign policy interests and the wellbeing of the student population.”

The long speaker’s race finally ended when Michael Johnson of Louisiana was elected as the speaker of the House on Oct. 25.

“The eventual election of Michael Johnson seemed more the product of exhaustion rather than excitement. The public’s confidence in government, already at very low levels, was only further eroded by the dysfunction playing out in the selection of a speaker,” said Borick. 

However, now Johnson has the task of continuing the work of speaker of the House, still with the ability for one member of the Republican Caucus to call for a motion to vacate. Johnson will have to collaborate on federal spending as well as likely bills coming to the floor for funding for both Israel and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian concerns in Gaza. 

When asked about the relevancy of the events in the House, Makovsky reflected, “Students were speaking about the potential government shutdown and the removal of Kevin McCarthy from his position as Speaker maybe three to four weeks ago, but recent events have widely taken over daily political discourse as the GOP has descended into chaos.” 

Whether this continues to be an issue in the background will remain to be seen as the possibility of a government shutdown looms nearer, and both wars in Ukraine and in Israel and Gaza attract much attention and concern from Muhlenberg students. 

Borick turned to the future, considering the 2024 election, “What’s interesting to consider is will the ultimate choice of Johnson, a member who opposed the certification of the 2020 election and maintains positions on reproductive rights that don’t align with many Americans become an anchor on the Republican efforts to keep control of the House in [2024].”

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