Kevin McCarthy is elected Speaker of the House after four historic days of Republican infighting

William of England
By William of England 7 Min Read

After the longest series of speaker ballots since 1859, McCarthy polled 216 votes in the final tally, enough to be elected to the position of second in line for the presidency, with six votes “present”. Democrats unanimously voted for their leader, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

The protracted standoff between establishment Republicans and hardline conservatives took 15 votes over four days to resolve. And he expects even more chaos ahead of the political challenges ahead this year, including raising the US debt ceiling and government funding.

The final vote was preceded by dramatic moments in the courtroom as the republican struggle escalated with screams and physical confrontations. After McCarthy was pinned on the 14th ballot, a stunning and humiliating defeat, he quickly went to the back of the House floor and confronted Florida’s Matt Gaetz, one of his most vocal critics.

Gaetz had resisted voting until the last moment, when it would have been decisive. He then voted “present” which left McCarthy just before the victory. McCarthy ally Mike Rogers rushed over to Gaetz and started saying something, but was held back by Rep. Richard Hudson.

Gaetz seems to be accusing McCarthy of something and points his finger at him. McCarthy finally left, flustered, without the vote he needed, as a stunned House watched it unfold.

Donald Trump, whose previous endorsement of McCarthy failed to sway his opponents, made a last-minute pitch. Colorado Republican Ken Buck said the former president was telephoning members on the floor.

Until the speaker was elected, the House could not conduct other business, and there are no rules governing the day-to-day operations of the House’s 434 legislators and their staff. After Saturday morning’s vote, returning and newly elected lawmakers were finally sworn in and prepared to vote on a package of rules outlining how the House works.

McCarthy, A California A Republican, he prevailed after days of intense negotiations and a series of humiliating defeats. He has had to relinquish considerable authority, promising to support procedural changes that empower dissenters, including the ability to let a single Republican force a House vote to oust him as speaker.

He also caved to calls from fiscal conservatives to use the federal debt ceiling as a bargaining chip to force spending cuts and to cap FY 2024 spending across government at 2022 levels, which would mean significant cuts for many. programs. Both raise the risk of a market-shattering showdown with the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Joe Biden.

McCarthy’s bid for the speaker’s gavel had been in trouble ever since the election, in which the GOP fell short of expectations of a so-called red wave that would have given them solid majorities in both the House and Senate.

They won in the House, but that’s where the struggle for a party leadership is playing out most vividly. Republicans are divided between swing district members who must court independent voters and hardline conservatives with safe seats who have adopted Trump’s populist agenda.

Perhaps the most important concession McCarthy made was a rule change that allowed a single disaffected Republican to initiate a vote to remove him at any time.

The tide began to turn in McCarthy’s favor once he and the dissenters outlined the outlines of the deal, with 15 of the opponents changing their votes to support it during Friday’s 12th round of voting.

McCarthy said he anticipated speakers voting would go multi-round as a faction of ultra-conservatives pressed for more power. He swore he wouldn’t back down.

“I have no problem getting a record for the most votes per speaker,” he said before the runoff began.

McCarthy had to wait for two of his supporters to return to the Capitol to vote on Friday. Incoming Rep. Wesley Hunt of Texas was away to meet with his newborn baby and Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado departed Thursday due to a medical matter.

This is the second time McCarthy has encountered checkpoints in the attempt to rapporteur. When Ohio Republican John Boehner stepped down as speaker and resigned from the House in 2015 after facing rebellions from conservative Republicans, McCarthy, who was first elected to the House in 2012, was widely seen as a favorite to replace it. But he backed down in the face of opposition from that conservative faction.

McCarthy, 57, spent much of last year trying to win over a faction of conservatives who had a list of grievances about House rules, ire at compromises with Democrats and a lack of faith in the Californian’s claim to conservative credentials .

Arizona Rep. Andy Biggs, one of the leaders of the uprising, said earlier in the week that McCarthy “has a history that’s off-putting to some people.” He voted against McCarthy in the 14th round of voting but passed “present” in the 15th and final round.

Like most House speakers, McCarthy goes into the job with an extensive fundraising network. He raised nearly $26.5 million last cycle, more than any other member of the House. And the McCarthy-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund’s Super PAC raised nearly $260 million. Of the 20 hardliners who opposed McCarthy in the first 11 speaker ballots, 14 of the hardliners received part of the largesse from McCarthy’s fund.

But notably, some of McCarthy’s most fervent detractors — including Representatives Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Matt Gaetz of Florida — received no funding from McCarthy’s PAC.

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