When was the last time it took this long to elect a speaker of the House?

Something like this is completely unprecedented in modern politics

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) returns to his office following a day of votes for the new speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol on January 04, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives will continue to try and elect the next speaker after McCarthy failed to earn more than 218 votes on six ballots over two days, the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) (Anna Moneymaker, 2023 Getty Images)

It’s 2023, so that means a new speaker of the House must be elected by Congress, but it seems that the majority of Republicans are unable to decide who to elect. who to elect after two days of voting.

House Republicans were expected to elect Congressman Kevin McCarthy to speaker of the House after Republicans took control of the House after the 2022 election, but a small group of House Republicans have stopped McCarthy from reaching 218 votes after multiple rounds of voting.

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Something like this is completely unprecedented in modern politics. There have been a few times in the last 25 years or so when a member of the party that was in the majority voted “present” or for someone besides the party nominee, but it never actually stopped the vote from happening. This was normally a very brief and unexciting vote that happened every two years. That was, until 2023.

The last time this happened was 100 years ago in 1923. Instead of McCarthy not having enough votes, it was Frederick H. Gillett of Massachusetts. Interestingly enough, he was a Republican, too.

During the first round of voting, Gillett only got 197 votes during the first round of voting -- fewer than McCarthy got during his first round of voting on Tuesday.

It took Gillett nine ballots in order to become elected the speaker of the House, and right now, McCarthy is pretty close to matching that record. As of Thursday morning, the House has voted on six ballots. That means that only seven speaker votes in the entire history of America have gone on longer than this one.

There have been 127 elections for speaker, and before this week’s vote, 14 speaker elections went beyond just one round of votes. On top of that, 13 of those elections were before the Civil War.

The longest vote for speaker of the House happened in 1855. It was the 34th Congress, and it took 133 ballots until the majority in the House was able to pick a speaker. The vote took around two months to finish, and had 21 candidates fighting over the powerful position.

Ultimately, anti-slavery congressman Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts, a member of the American Party, was elected speaker of the House.

Congress will vote again Thursday at noon. Who knows if Republicans will be able to get enough votes to elect McCarthy? Only time will tell.

About the Author

Jack is a Digital Content Editor with a degree in creative writing and French from Western Michigan University. He specializes in writing about movies, food and the latest TV shows.

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