New York Times Opinion: What a Failed Speaker Vote Means for Kevin McCarthy and Republicans

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Brendan Buck


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Opening day in the House of Representatives is typically marked by the usual pageantry and the fleeting promise that this Congress will work better than the last. That hope could be immediately dashed this year if the House fails to elect a speaker on the first ballot and descends into a floor fight unprecedented in modern times.

A small band of Republican misfits has vowed to vote against Kevin McCarthy, the party’s nominee for speaker. With a razor-thin majority, just five Republicans voting against him could deny Mr. McCarthy the gavel. This would be no small event. The House last failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot in 1923, and it’s only happened once since the Civil War.

Electing a speaker is a responsibility given the House by the Constitution. Allowing the process to unravel into chaos would diminish the entire body and destroy Americans’ confidence in the new Congress. Mr. McCarthy still has time to reach an agreement with his critics, and he should do all within reason to secure the speakership on the first vote. Otherwise, a self-serving power play by a small group of Republicans threatens to make a mockery of the institution and further cement the notion that the party is not prepared to lead.