House Democrats float 'unity speaker' idea after failed McCarthy votes

 January 5, 2023

House Democrats on Wednesday raised the possibility of a "unity speaker" as a way to end the debate between Republicans that has led to at least seven ballots for speaker in which no candidate has managed to get enough votes to be elected.

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) said that Democrats would be open to working with Republicans to find a speaker a majority of all House members could support.

“We would look at that, but I haven’t seen any proof that Republicans are willing to engage,” he told Punchbowl News.

About 20 Republicans have been voting against the nominated candidate, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (D-CA), and it appears that at least five of them, enough to deny him a majority, cannot be swayed by any concessions he is willing to offer.

"Potential coalition government?"

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) also told the Daily Beast that she thought a unity speaker was a good idea, but that Democrats would want some concessions of their own for giving support.

"I mean, hey, if we could get some chairs,” she said, meaning that Republicans would have to give Democrats some committee chairmanships.

“I do not believe that Kevin McCarthy has the votes," she said on MSNBC Tuesday night. "I believe that a lot of the opposition to him is very personal. I believe his leadership style is incompatible with a lot of Republican members and certainly the Democratic Caucus."

“So the question is, is there anyone in their caucus that can build that consensus? If there isn’t, McCarthy’s team may have to come to the Democratic Party? And, if that’s the case, then what would that even look like. It’s rather unprecedented? Could it result in a potential coalition government?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.

Special category?

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) seemed willing to vote for McCarthy as speaker if she could get something out of it.

“I think we have plenty of talent on both sides of the aisle,” she said. “And it’s only a few [Republicans] who are holding out. Maybe what we need to do is look for some kind of arrangement that embraces people from both sides of the aisle.”

“I wish I could be part of some kind of a unity caucus that would yield [McCarthy] the votes, because the Republicans hold a majority, and maybe put us in a special category,” she added.

The vast majority of Republicans want McCarthy as speaker, but the rules require the speaker to have a majority of all House votes, not just Republicans the way the Senate operates.

Rules would allow non-House member to be speaker

The rules do not require the speaker to be an actual member of Congress at the time of election, which has led to some proposals of moderates like Justin Amash (now a libertarian) and Fred Upton by those on the outside of the race looking in.

It is unlikely that the Speaker will be someone who is not one of the 435 House members, however, and such moderate candidates are unlikely to get the support of those opposing McCarthy anyway.

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