The 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares Jan. 3 at noon as the new session of Congress.
However, the new Congress cannot be sworn in until the Speaker of the House is chosen. Hence, John Duarte and 434 of his soon-to-be-colleagues, are still waiting to officially become members of Congress. Duarte won a tight election in November for the 13th District of California.
Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield didn’t receive a majority of 218 votes during three rounds of voting Tuesday on the first day of the 118th Congress. It had been 100 years since the Speaker vote lasted beyond one round of votes.
Duarte, R-Modesto, voted for McCarthy all three times (“members-elect” vote for the Speaker). Twenty Republican holdouts are preventing McCarthy from taking the gavel, and Congress from moving on with its business.
“It was frustrating circumstances anyone would imagine, but there wasn’t a lot of expressed frustration. I think there was a lot of determination to just let it play out a couple of rounds of votes and hopefully come to a Republican leadership that’s going to be highly effective and able to move forward,” Duarte said.
Duarte believes that McCarthy will become Speaker
“It’s just something we’ve got to work through. And it looks like we have to work through it a little longer,” Duarte told GV Wire after Congress was adjourned for the day. He is unsure when that will happen. He is not part of leadership discussions.
The Day on the Floor
Duarte spoke with some of the 20 holdouts, mainly those in his freshman class.
“We’re keeping it friendly and respectful. Just trying to understand where the other side’s at on this so we can figure it out,” Duarte said. “I’m hoping that everyone comes around and understands that the sooner we resolve the leadership and the Speaker issue in the House, the sooner we can go forward on the agenda the American working families need it to go forward.”
Duarte is concerned that leadership may make too many concessions to the holdouts.
“At some point, you start giving one side so much that you lose on the other side. And that’s the challenge of any Speaker — to find that path down the middle,” Duarte said.
Duarte had a brief conversation with McCarthy, wishing him well.
Duarte’s family is with him, for what he hoped was his swearing-in. Instead of a dinner on the town, they opted for pizza in his office. They did join him on the floor.
“Any time we step into something like being a congressman … they know it’s going to have a lot of uncertainty, excitement. When you run for Congress, you kind of sign up for some frustration. You know, beat your head against the wall on certain issues. It’ll be this now. It will be budgets later. It’ll be other legislative efforts in the future. This is what we signed up for,” Duarte said.
He said taking the traditional photo of being sworn in with family is nice, but he has higher priorities, such as the closure of Madera Community Hospital.
Duarte on Santos
Duarte also discussed his freshman colleague, embattled New York Republican George Santos.
Santos has been exposed as lying much about his background, including his work resume, his religious background, and the death of his mother.
“I like George. I’ve met George. (It) sounds like some of these things are pretty unfortunate and avoidable. Oddly enough, I don’t think anybody voted for George because of his life story of, you know, riches and educational experiences. I think people like George and liked his energy and probably would have voted for him anyways, but that’s just my supposition. At the end of the day, it’s between George and his voters,” Duarte said.
Duarte did not give a direct answer when asked if he trusted Santos.
“I think that you have to look at the record of over-the-top embellishments and weigh that in,” Duarte said.