On his first day in Washington, D.C., Rhode Island’s newest member of Congress got to witness once-in-a-century dysfunction as the House wasn’t able to elect a new speaker on the first, second, or third ballot for the first time since 1923.
That means US Representative-elect Seth Magaziner will have to wait until at least today – or as long as it takes for the Republican majority to find its next speaker – to be sworn into office, a bizarre technicality because House members vote for speaker before they are sworn in themselves. Even the Internet in his office isn’t working yet.
If you weren’t paying attention to political news yesterday, a group of dissident Republicans are blocking US Representative Kevin McCarthy from becoming speaker, and no compromise candidate who can secure the votes has emerged.
Rhode Island’s two House members, Magaziner and David Cicilline, don’t have much of a say in the speaker fight because the Democrats are in the minority party. They intend to continue voting for Hakeem Jeffries of New York even though he has no path to becoming speaker.
If you flash back to 1923 and the 68th Congress, it took Republican Frederick H. Gillett of Massachusetts nine votes to be reelected speaker after a group of progressive Republicans attempted to block him.
At the time, Rhode Island had three House seats, and like Magaziner, two of the members were brand new to Congress: Republican Richard S. Aldrich and Democrat Jeremiah E. O’Connell.
Aldrich stuck with his fellow Rhode Island Republican Clark Burdick, who had been in Congress since 1919, and voted for Gillett on every ballot.
O’Connell followed the lead of the Democrats and cast no vote each time.So how did politics work out for those guys?
Burdick remained in the House until he lost to Democrat Francis Condon in 1932 — the year Rhode Island lost one of its three House seats. Aldrich retired ahead of the 1932 election.O’Connell served two terms in the House before losing narrowly to Republican Louis Monast in 1926. He won the seat back two years later, but left Congress in 1930 to become a judge in Rhode Island.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, data about the coronavirus in the state, and more. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.