Speaker turmoil offers incoming members rare spotlight – JP
In his first days in the Capitol, Republican John James, a recently elected member from Michigan, made the unusual move of giving a high-profile speech on the House floor to nominate Kevin McCarthy as speaker.
“My family’s gone from slave to the floor of the United States House of Representatives, being the first member of his freshman class to speak, in a series of five generations,” James, a 41-year-old Army veteran who is Black, boomed on the floor Thursday ahead of the seventh ballot over who would preside over the 118th Congress.
The tumultuous, protracted speaker debate has offered a rare opportunity for brand-new and lesser-known lawmakers, such as James and Juan Ciscomani of Arizona, to highlight their biographies and display oratory gravitas. And they’re doing it in a room packed with colleagues — after an end to proxy voting — and before a national audience. The speeches have fueled speculation about future leadership ambitions and runs for Senate and have given the GOP a chance to spotlight the emerging diversity in its ranks.
“For them to be able to give nominating speeches on the floor that millions of people are tuned into, including the national media, gives them a real opportunity to showcase their potential star power within the Republican Party,” said Ron Bonjean, a former House GOP leadership aide and a co-founder of the consulting firm Rokk Solutions. “Having that national attention can really help with everything, with getting noticed, to fundraising, for future political endeavors.”
Most members typically wait much longer to utter anything on the floor, and when they do, it’s under House rules that tightly control time for debate, so speaking time is often awarded in 30-second increments. William R. Timmons IV, a South Carolina Republican who is starting his third term in the House, said he waited a full year before he spoke in a committee or on the House floor.