Congress

Countdown: House speaker’s race by the numbers

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, squeezes behind outgoing House Speaker John Boehner at the start of a news conference on Capitol Hill last month. McCarthy is the favorite to succeed the retiring Boehner as speaker. House Republicans are scheduled to make their choice Thursday.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, squeezes behind outgoing House Speaker John Boehner at the start of a news conference on Capitol Hill last month. McCarthy is the favorite to succeed the retiring Boehner as speaker. House Republicans are scheduled to make their choice Thursday. AP

House of Representatives Republicans will go behind closed doors Thursday to select their candidate to replace John Boehner as House speaker. Fifty-three individuals have served as speaker of the House, starting with Pennsylvania’s Frederick Muhlenberg in April 1789. It’s a position steeped in tradition, rich in history and chock full of numbers associated with it. Here are a few:

17 – The number of years Sam Rayburn, D-Texas, served as House speaker, the longest tenure in House history. He served three different times as speaker and held the gavel a total of 17 years, two months, and two days between 1940 and 1961.

1 – The number of days Rep. Theodore Pomeroy, R-N.Y., was House speaker, the shortest tenure in the chamber’s history. The popular lawmaker was elected on March 3, 1869, on the last day of the 40th Congress, because House Speaker Schuyler Colfax was elected vice president and required to relinquish his House position. “The unanimity with which I have been chosen to preside for this brief period is evidence of itself that your choice carries with it no political significance,” Pomeroy said upon his election.

1 – The number of women who’ve been House speaker. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., served as speaker from 2007 to 2011.

52 – The number of men who have been House speaker.

0 – The number of non-House members who’ve served as speaker. There’s no constitutional requirement that the speaker has to be elected from the House. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., said he’d like to select an outsider such as 2016 Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson to replace Boehner. Last January, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., another 2016 Republican presidential candidate, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell each received a vote for speaker.

8 – House speakers who’ve come from Massachusetts, the most of any state. The last one was Democrat Thomas Philip “Tip” O’Neill Jr., who wielded the gavel from 1977 to 1987.

133 – The number of ballots it took before Rep. Nathaniel Banks of Massachusetts was elected speaker in the most contentious election in the chamber’s history. Racked by divisions over slavery and an anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, 21 people ran for speaker. The voting began in December 1855 and ended two months later when Banks, then a member of the short-lived American Party, defeated Rep. William Aiken, D-S.C., on a 103-100 vote. He only served one term as speaker.

247 – Current number of Republicans in the House of Representatives. The chamber has 188 Democrats.

40 – Estimated membership of the House Freedom Caucus, the conservative Republican group that’s been critical of Boehner’s leadership. Members say the group intends to be a major player in this week’s GOP leadership elections.

87 – The number of freshman Republicans elected to the House in 2010, helping the party regain control of the House. Many of them were recruited by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. – Boehner’s likely replacement – when he served as Republican whip.

William Douglas: 202-383-6026, @williamgdouglas

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