With the House in chaos, C-SPAN shows footage Americans don’t usually see

On Tuesday, the House convened to elect a new House speaker. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)
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Loud booing. Animated conversations in the aisles of the House chamber. Sleeping children. Lawmakers scrolling on their phones.

The typical live stream from the U.S. House is focused on the dais and the desks from which members of each party address the chamber. But this week brought an unusual amount of drama as the American public watched lawmakers struggle to select a new speaker.

And that’s largely thanks to C-SPAN.

On Jan. 3, the House voted to establish quorum ahead of its first three speaker election ballots. (Video: C-Span)

The House Radio-TV Gallery told The Washington Post that C-SPAN was given permission in advance of the voting for its cameras to visually roam across the chamber. But once a speaker is confirmed, C-SPAN will go back to its normal procedure.

Its cameras have captured the huddles of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan (Ohio), a McCarthy ally who was nominated for speaker by conservative hard-liners over his own objections.

Perspective | The House speaker vote is the best thing on TV right now

Republican Reps.-elect Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) were captured talking to one another after the first House speaker vote on Jan. 3. (Video: The Washington Post)

C-SPAN also has given the public a closer look at the factions of the GOP that have been at loggerheads. There are 20 Republicans who have voted against McCarthy on several ballots.

A group of Republican members of the House was seen in animated discussion after a fourth inconclusive vote for a House speaker on Jan. 4. (Video: The Washington Post)

The cameras also caught rare moments like New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez conversing with Arizona Republican Paul A. Gosar. Ocasio-Cortez later told MSNBC that they were discussing the possibility of Republicans working out a deal with Democrats to secure the votes McCarthy would need for the speakership.

Their exchange was rather surprising. Gosar was censured by his colleagues last year after sharing an animated video on social media that showed him killing Ocasio-Cortez.

Reps.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) spoke together in the House chamber during the House speaker vote on Jan. 3. (Video: The Washington Post)

During the series of votes, C-SPAN cameras caught the bored faces of children sitting in the House chamber watching the drama unfold. Lawmakers typically invite their families to the first day of Congress to witness the pomp and circumstance, as well as be there for their swearing-in.

Tired children sat next to one another after the second House speaker ballot vote on Jan. 3. (Video: The Washington Post)

Then there’s newly elected Republican George Santos (N.Y.), who fabricated large parts of his résumé and has refused to step aside.

On the first day of voting, he was seen sitting mostly by himself as he voted for McCarthy. On the second day, he was seen listening in on heated discussions between Republicans on the House floor.

Rep.-elect George Santos (R-N.Y.) sat alone at the back of the House chamber before the House speaker vote on Jan. 3. (Video: The Washington Post)

Whether it’s lawmakers chatting in the aisles or their reactions after a vote, Ben O’Connell, C-SPAN’s director of editorial operations, says he hopes the network will be allowed to show more of it to the American public.

“Those visuals are really speaking to viewers,” he told The Post. “It’s helping to tell the story of this speaker election. Now, imagine if we were able to do that when there’s a major piece of legislation. I think that it would be far more engaging for the American people, and voters would really be able to see who’s talking to who.”

He continued: “Right now, under the status quo, they simply can’t.”

Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker of the House

The vote: The House elected Kevin McCarthy after days of defeats and concessions to win over hard-line Republicans. See how each of the House members voted in all 15 ballots.

A dramatic finish: After multiple ballots over four days (the longest House speaker vote in history took two months and 133 votes), the House turned into a near-brawl late Friday after a 14th round of voting failed. See the remarkable near-confrontation on the House floor.

Kevin McCarthy’s concessions: McCarthy made several concessions in an attempt to win over 20 Republicans who voted against his candidacy. In the end, these were the remaining six holdouts McCarthy needed to persuade. Here are the concessions that could become flash points.