The Long Fight for House Speaker Creating Unlikely Media Stars


History was made this week — though not necessarily in a good way— as the U.S. House of Representatives failed time after time to elect a Speaker.

And with the Capitol at a standstill, some unexpected and unusual institutions took center stage during the extremely long, and extremely tedious, proceedings.

C-SPAN is, for instance, an august, normally serious purveyor, of coverage on the gavel-to-gavel Congress.

The normal rules were suspended because no Speaker was elected. The cable network was able to transmit video using its own cameras and not the official government lenses. 

Some members were seen putting their hands over the mouths, bartering for votes and bargaining so viewers couldn’t see what they were doing. It also showed deep conversations between House members who are miles apart in ideology and personalities — most notably an intense discussion between liberal Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Republican Paul Gosar of Arizona, the latter of whom proudly describes himself as the “most conservative member”Congress

And with nowhere else to watch second-by-second TV coverage, C-SPAN viewers got a long glimpse of Clerk of the House of Representatives Cheryl Johnson, who ruled the proceedings with a stern gavel and the patience of a pre-school teacher.

She advised the newly elected House members to be disciplined. 

“Members-elect should refrain from engaging in personalities toward other members-elect,”She warned her about this. “The chair appreciates the cooperation of members-elect in respecting and upholding order and decorum in the House. Thank you.”

Johnson was not afraid to use her wooden hammer, even when the muttering and grinding on the floor became a dull roar. “The House will come to order,”Over four days, she intoned frequently.

After the 13th round of voting had failed again, the House narrowly voted that the House should return at 10 p.m. so members who were home for the weekend could vote again.

C-SPAN was back, with a growing fan base.

“This the best season of C-SPAN … ever,”Jon Stewart tweeted earlier in this week.


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