MERCER: From the gallery: a view of the historic Speaker vote 

Members talk in the House chamber as the House meets for a second day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

No photos. 

That is rule 1, 2, 3, and 4 among the House Press Gallery and one we were reminded of many times before entering the chamber just before noon on January 3. 

I took seat 43 in the gallery as alphabetical sheets of the 118th Congress were passed down along with the Wi-Fi information for media. 

I see why the no photo rule is so prominent: the view is stunning. 

Perched behind the dais, media covering the House of Representatives can see the entire House chamber as it was exceptionally full for the opening of the new term. 

I did my best to mentally record the moment and document what was happening as the 434 members stepped onto the floor. 

I immediately noticed Reps. Greg Murphy and Don Davis take a selfie, perhaps in a show of eastern NC unity.  

Rep. Richard Hudson was at the back of the chamber along with other House Republican leadership stationed near each door. New Rep. Wiley Nickel sat with his two kids on the other side of the chamber.  

Scanning the list of members, I realized Rep. Dan Bishop would be one of the first members to give an indication of how the vote may unfold. As had been discussed ad nauseum, California Rep. Kevin McCarthy could only lose 4 votes to become Speaker. 

Bishop delivered his first vote of the day for Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona and we were witnessing history. 

Not since 1923 had a Speaker vote gone to a second round. The next six hours were filled with oohs and ahhs, audible groans and flurries of conversations. 

In the gallery, we tracked the vote with pen and paper on one side and Twitter on the other. 

We watched as Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan marched to the microphone to scribble a speech he shared with New York Rep. Elise Stefanik for edits. Then Louisiana’s Steve Scalise. 

On the Democratic side, it was an impressive show of unity as they uniformly voted for their leader, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Savoring the moment, many of the Democrats made a show of their votes with short speeches. As I noted in a quick text to a friend, the balloting would have been over sooner without them. 

As the vote went the same on the second and third ballots, I felt how the energy from 12 p.m. had dissipated. Reporters in the gallery were gaming out scenarios for McCarthy to drop out of the contest. That didn’t happen, of course. 

I excitedly told my wife that I was witnessing history.  

“You’re nerding out,” she replied. She wasn’t wrong. 

When the House adjourned in the evening and it was time to leave, I paused one more time to take in the scene. 

How many times do you get to see something like this? 

I walked down from the gallery to the first floor of the Capitol and went to the rotunda one more time.  

Then I walked out and finally snapped a few photos. 

About Matt Mercer 389 Articles
Matt Mercer is the editor in chief of North State Journal and can be reached at [email protected]