US House Speaker Odds Remain in Flux, Challenge to Rep. Kevin McCarthy Endures

By | January 5, 2023

For the first time in more than a century, a US House speaker nominee hasn’t won the gravel on the first vote of a new Congress. And political bettors are only losing confidence that the newly Republican-controlled congressional chamber will find a leader anytime soon.

House speaker odds Kevin McCarthy Congress Trump
US Rep. Kevin McCarthy reacts in the House of Representatives on Jan. 4, 2023, after hearing that he again did not achieve the votes needed to become House speaker. Political bettors still believe he has the best odds of succeeding former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. (Image: Getty)

California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy is seeking the speakership, but he’s failed to achieve a simple majority needed to claim the gravel.

The US House of Representatives elects a speaker at the beginning of each new Congress. After the GOP took control of the chamber in November, the Republicans need to appoint a leader.

But a faction of the party — the so-called Freedom Caucus that has aligned with former President Donald Trump even though he’s publicly backed McCarthy — is demanding unprecedented rule changes in exchange for their votes.

The McCarthy opponents want more power for the entire body of the House. They’re demanding that rank-and-file representatives have more influence in crafting legislation, including the ability to amend bills and extend debates.

But more significant is that some of the Freedom Caucus want to restore the ability of any lawmaker to force a vote to remove a speaker. That would improve accountability, they claim.

McCarthy Still Favorite

PredictIt bettors think McCarthy still has the best chance of succeeding former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), one of the Republican’s colleagues in California’s congressional delegation. But his odds continue to lengthen.

Before the new Congress began, McCarthy’s PredictIt shares of becoming the next House speaker were trading at nearly 80 cents.

PredictIt bettors buy and sell shares of political outcomes. If their bet turns out to be correct, each share is redeemed by the online political wagering exchange at $1. PredictIt allows traders to purchase up to $850 worth of shares in a single market.

Today, McCarthy’s shares are at just 50 cents. But that keeps him as the betting front-runner for the speakership. Despite a series of votes against him, McCarthy has pledged to carry on.

I crawl before I walk, I walk before I run,” McCarthy said after the House adjourned on Wednesday night. “I felt as though we had a very good discussion.”

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) has the next-best odds of becoming speaker. His shares are trading at 36 cents. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is third at six cents.

Finding Common Ground

A minimum of 218 representatives must back a speaker nominee for the House chaos to be settled.

The US Constitution doesn’t mandate that the speaker be a member of Congress. As such, some speculation has emerged that an unelected person might be the solution to the standoff. PredictIt bettors give Trump about a 4% chance of becoming House speaker — the fourth-shortest odds in the market.

The former president, however, has little interest in the gig, as he has his sights set again on the White House.

“Some really good conversations took place … [but] it’s now time for all of our great Republican House members to vote for Kevin,” Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social. “Republicans, do not turn a great triumph into a giant and embarrassing defeat.”

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