Watch CBS News

How many votes are needed to win the House speaker election?

Third House speaker vote expected soon
House expected to hold third speaker vote, Jordan still doesn't appear to have enough support 05:06

Since Rep. Kevin McCarthy was removed as speaker over two weeks ago, Republicans, who hold the majority in the House, have selected two nominees to replace him. Both have failed to secure enough support to win the speaker's gavel because neither reached the threshold necessary within their own party to guarantee victory.

All of the Democrats have voted to support House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries whenever the question has been put to a vote.

Rep. Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, lost a second round of voting Wednesday. With 22 Republicans voting against him, Jordan had even less support than he did in the first round. The House is voting for a third time on Friday.

How many votes are needed to win the election for House speaker? 

The magic number is usually 218, a simple majority of the 435 members in the House. In the 118th Congress, however, it's currently 217. 

This year, David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, resigned in June, and Chris Stewart, Republican of Utah, resigned in September. Both seats will be filled by special elections in November. For now, that means that it takes one vote less to reach a majority, if all 433 lawmakers are present and voting for a candidate.

Republicans hold 221 seats in the House, and Democrats have 212. It's a slim majority of 9 that allows the GOP to lose only four votes from their side on any measure if Democrats are united against it.

Candidates who fell short of 217 in race to succeed McCarthy

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Jordan ran against each other within the Republican conference to be the GOP speaker nominee. Scalise was the first Republican selected by his party, but when he could not secure the backing of enough of Jordan's supporters, he dropped his bid.

Jordan had even less support — 55 Republicans said in a secret ballot last Friday that they opposed his candidacy. Over the weekend, he sought to change their minds, and by Monday evening, he had won seven new endorsements that day alone. He and his allies predicted Jordan would win the speakership Tuesday when the House met. Jordan even suggested to reporters that he might win on the first ballot.

But the vote on Tuesday did not bear out his optimism. Jordan had only 200 votes Tuesday, and then Wednesday, he had lost ground and ended up with 199 Republicans supporting him, well short of the 217 he needed to win.

In the past: Winning the speakership without 217

It is possible to win the speakership without hitting 217 in this Congress, but in order to do so, a candidate would have to coax some of those in opposition to change their votes from "no" to "present." Measures are passed in the House with a majority of those who cast a vote.

For instance, McCarthy won the speakership in January on a vote of 216-212, convincing enough of his GOP colleagues who had voted against him to support his bid. The six remaining Republicans who withheld their support for McCarthy up to the final ballot — Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Eli Crane of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Bob Good of Virginia and Matt Rosendale of Montana — voted present. 

Faced with a similarly small majority in 2021, Rep. Nancy Pelosi also won her final speakership with 216 votes. Five Democrats either voted for someone else or voted present, and all of the Republicans voted for McCarthy. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.