The Hitchhiker’s Guide to what’s going to go down tonight with the speaker’s election

Fox expects the House to elect Rep.-elect Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as speaker either late tonight or in the wee hours of Saturday morning. 

We don’t know if McCarthy will win on a potential 14th ballot right after the House returns at 10 p.m. ET. But Fox is told GOP brass does expect McCarthy to prevail tonight.

We do not know the exact ‘magic number’ for McCarthy to win. However, if all 434 members are present, the number is 218. Reps.-elect Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, and Ken Buck, R-Colo., were absent earlier. Fox is told both will be back tonight. Both are McCarthy supporters. 

It is possible other members-elect could be absent from other side of the aisle. That would lower the threshold for McCarthy and could potentially help him win the speakership depending on who is absent. 

Moreover, Democrats could be absent. Or, if McCarthy fails to flip the six holdouts, they could vote ‘present.’ A ‘present’ vote does not count against the overall tally. 

Three former speakers, Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. all won various speaker’s elections with fewer than 218 votes.

The total needed to win the speakership IS ALWAYS IN MOTION. That’s because it depends on how many members actually cast ballots. The math is tricky.

Here’s how I expect things to go down.

McCarthy is elected speaker — on whichever ballot that may be. Keep in mind that nothing is final until House Clerk Cheryl Johnson announces the totals. There is always a lull of about 15 minutes between when the last ballot is cast when the tellers tabulate the votes.

Then, the House will appoint an ‘escort committee’ to bring the speaker into the chamber. This will involve another lull. 

The House will present the speaker. It is likely that incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. will present the gavel to McCarthy.

The dean of the House — the most senior member of either party — then swears in the speaker. In this case, it’s Rep.-elect Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who was elected in 1980.

The speaker will then swear in members and give a speech from the dais.

Fox is told the House expects to approve the ‘rules package’ for the 118th Congress at some point afterward.

The rules package will be an important component to the ‘deal’ McCarthy cut with holdouts to secure their votes. The rules package is a crucial and often controversial component to House operations. For instance, the Senate has 44 ‘standing rules’ that carry over from one Congress to the next. 

However, the House rules do not carry over. So, the House must adopt the rules package to govern how the House will operate.

Two major ironies here: 

McCarthy and others have made a major point about giving members a full ’72 hours’ to ‘read the bills’ before the House votes on them. The rules package is NOT a bill. There is often wiggle room on enforcing any modicum of a ’72-hour rule’ for ‘bills.’ 

That’s because much of the House’s legislative traffic involves resolutions, reports, ‘substitute’ amendments (say from the Senate), et al. Not just ‘bills.’ This ‘rules package’ is a ‘resolution.’ However, the full text of this measure has not been out for 72 hours. So, it will be ironic if the House votes on this overnight.

Moreover, Republicans were often apoplectic about Democrats passing big bills ‘in the dark of night.’

It appears that the new House GOP majority will likely elect its speaker and approve its rules package for the 118th Congress late Friday night or the wee hours of Saturday morning.

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