Ohio and Pennsylvania Choose Speakers for Unity

Ohio and Pennsylvania Choose Speakers for Unity

For the first time in a century, Congress is well and truly stuck trying to elect its new Speaker of the House. After multiple ballots, no candidate, including presumed front-runner Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), has secured the majority of votes cast to win the gavel.

This is more than just a political mess. Under the rules of the House of Representatives, no other business can be conducted until the speaker is chosen. That means no work can be done on fighting inflation, or solving the immigration crisis, or any of the host of other issues voters sent their representatives to Washington to solve.

At most to blame is a small group of far-right lawmakers withholding their support for McCarthy unless he makes a number of concessions that would give them enormous power in setting the agenda for Congress.

Without the support of this faction, the conventional thinking goes, no Republican will have enough votes to win the speaker’s gavel in a narrowly divided House.

But what if the conventional thinking is wrong?

In Ohio and Pennsylvania, state legislators this week went through the same process to elect their own speakers of the House – whoever receives a majority of votes, wins.

In Ohio, Republican Rep. Jason Stephens defeated the presumed frontrunner, fellow Republican Rep. Derek Merrin, by winning the support of the Democratic caucus, who were concerned with many of the policy goals of the more conservative Merrin.

One state over, Democrat-turned-Independent Mark Rozzi unexpectedly won the Pennsylvania speakership by gaining the support of Democrats and a number of Republicans, thwarting some in the Republican majority who wanted to pursue controversial amendments to the state constitution.

In both instances, Republicans had a majority that could elect a speaker. But in each race, the eventual winner won by promoting unity over a more partisan approach and garnering votes from both Republicans and Democrats.

Americans across the political spectrum are fed up with the partisanship bogging down politics these days. So as they watch the Republican majority in Congress remain at the mercy of a small group of far-right politicians to elect their speaker, they should remember that Ohio and Pennsylvania show another way is possible.