House Speaker Election Requirements: How Many Votes Are Needed?

jim jordan falls short in speaker election 20 gop members defect
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In the wake of Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s removal as speaker over two weeks ago, Republicans, who hold the majority in the House, have put forward two nominees in their attempt to fill the position. However, neither nominee has managed to gather enough support to secure victory, falling short of the required threshold within their own party.

For every vote on the matter, all Democrats have consistently backed House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, experienced a second-round defeat in the voting process on Wednesday. With 22 Republicans voting against him, Jordan received even fewer endorsements than in the initial round.

Votes Required to Win the House Speaker Election

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The critical number of votes needed to win the election for House speaker is typically 218, representing a simple majority of the 435 members in the House. However, in the 118th Congress, it currently stands at 217.

This year, two seats were vacated with David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, resigning in June, and Chris Stewart, a Republican from Utah, resigning in September. These vacant seats will be filled through special elections in November. As a result, it requires one vote less to achieve a majority when all 433 lawmakers are present and voting for a candidate.

Republicans hold 221 seats in the House, while Democrats have 212, resulting in a slim majority of 9. This margin permits the GOP to lose only four votes from their side on any measure if Democrats are united against it.

Candidates Falling Short of the Required Votes

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Jordan competed within the Republican conference to be the GOP’s speaker nominee. Scalise was initially selected by his party, but when he couldn’t secure enough support from Jordan’s backers, he withdrew his candidacy.

Jordan faced even greater opposition, with 55 Republicans expressing their opposition to his candidacy in a secret ballot. Over the weekend, he attempted to sway opinions, gaining seven new endorsements in a single day. He and his supporters were optimistic about his chances of winning the speakership when the House convened on Tuesday. However, the outcome was not as expected. Jordan secured only 200 votes on Tuesday, and his support dwindled to 199 Republicans on Wednesday, falling significantly short of the 217 votes needed to win.

Winning the Speakership with Fewer Than 217 Votes

It’s possible to secure the speakership without reaching the 217-vote threshold in this Congress. However, candidates would need to persuade some of those opposing them to change their votes from “no” to “present.” In the House, measures are passed with a majority of votes cast.

For example, McCarthy won the speakership in January with a vote of 216-212 by convincing some of his GOP colleagues who initially voted against him to support his bid. In that case, six Republicans who had previously withheld their support for McCarthy voted “present.”

In 2021, facing a similarly slim majority, Rep. Nancy Pelosi secured her final speakership with 216 votes. Five Democrats either voted for someone else or voted “present,” while all Republicans voted for McCarthy.

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