118th United States Congress convenes; House of Representatives adjourns without electing Speaker for first time in 100 years

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Friday, January 6, 2023

The United States Congress, convened Tuesday to begin its 118th session. Vice President and ex officio President of the Senate Kamala Harris swore in new and reelected Senators in the Senate chamber beginning shortly after noon EST (17:00 UTC).

The United States Capitol, the meeting place of Congress, in 2021.
Image: Beyond My Ken.

The Republican-majority House of Representatives is holding a roll call election for Speaker.

In the first ballot for Speaker on Tuesday, all 212 House Democrats voted for their leader, Representative Hakeem Jeffries, 203 House Republicans voted for their leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy, while 19 Republicans voted for other candidates. Thus, as no candidate attained the 218-vote majority necessary to win, the House was forced to proceed to a second ballot for the first time since 1923.

The second ballot produced the same totals for Jeffries and McCarthy, but the 19 Republicans opposed to McCarthy voted en bloc for Representative Jim Jordan, even though he had taken himself out of the race and endorsed McCarthy.

A third ballot resulted in 212 votes for Jeffries again, but 202 for McCarthy and 20 for Jordan. At approximately 5:29 PM EST (22:29 UTC), the House adjourned until noon EST (17:00 UTC) on Wednesday.

As of Thursday, the House has still failed to elect a Speaker despite conducting six ballots; when the Speaker election concludes, the victor will swear in the members-elect and direct the House to begin considering rules for the session.

Meanwhile, in the Democratic-majority Senate, Harris swore in the most senior Senator, Washington State Democrat Patty Murray as President pro tempore; Murray, the first woman to serve in that role, is now third in the United States presidential line of succession. The Senate began adopting rules Tuesday afternoon.

Senators serve staggered six-year terms, so federal elections, which occur every two years, see about one-third of all 100 Senate seats up for election; there are now 51 Democrats (including three independents who are members of the Democratic caucus) and 49 Republicans in the Senate. Representatives, by contrast, serve two-year terms, so all seats in the House of Representatives are up for election in every federal election; there are now 222 Republicans, 212 Democrats, and one vacancy in the House.


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