The United States has not in 164 years seen a battle to elect a new speaker for the House of Representatives like the one that reached a dramatic conclusion early Saturday. Virginia Tech political science professor Karen Hult has insights to share on how this extraordinary turn of events could affect future politics and governance.

Slower, more contentious decisions: The extended “fratricidal” contest to elect Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy could be just a taste of what’s to come. If the proposed rule changes granting more power to the Freedom Caucus get adopted, conflicts such as the one over McCarthy’s election could become regular features of legislative committee and House floor debates. As for working with the Senate, Hult says that relations between the two chambers clearly will become even more problematic. 

Threats of government shutdowns: The tension between Republican factions could render votes on raising the debt ceiling “particularly contentious and raise the likelihood of a government shutdown in the coming months,” Hult said, spurring the Biden administration to delay spending and shift funds in anticipation.

Broader long-term consequences: The unprecedented battle over choosing a speaker raised deeper questions about how well the federal government can fulfil basic functions moving forward — running the House, writing legislation, as well as engaging in compromise within the House, with the Senate, and with the executive branch. “Concerns also arise about reactions to the debacle both by those in the U.S. and, at least as important, by allies and rivals around the world,” said Hult.

Advantages for Democrats: President Biden’s administration has already seized on advantages handed over by the Republican chaos in the House, casting Democrats as bipartisan with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris making appearances alongside Republican partners to celebrate accomplishments. Meanwhile, House Democrats have demonstrated unity and concern for preservation of democracy, and voiced frustration at how the delay in deciding the Speaker kept them from starting the work they were elected to do.

Looking ahead to 2024: Hult cautions against focusing too much on the presidential “horse race,” though the heated battle for Speaker paired with the disappointing results for Republicans in the 2022 midterms seems to work in Biden’s favor. The ongoing conflicts also draw attention from the Republican front runners, former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, creating space for their many rivals to grab the spotlight. “Trump however may benefit from having numerous fellow contenders,” said Hult

About Hult:  Karen Hult teaches political science at Virginia Tech and serves as chair of its Center for Public Administration & Policy, with expertise in the U.S. Presidency, federal and state politics, policy, and governance, and federal and state courts. See her bio.

Schedule an interview: To secure an interview, contact Mike Allen in the media relations office at and (540) 400-1700. 

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