WASHINGTON — Republican leader Kevin McCarthy defeated a conservative rebellion and won the election as the 55th Speaker of the House early Saturday morning, following a chaotic standoff on the House floor between his allies and their far-right opponents. and that put an end to four days of stalemate.
The narrow victory for the California Republican came on the 15th ballot: the fifth-longest ballot in US history by number of ballots and the longest ballot in 164 years.
McCarthy received 216 votes, and the remaining six Republican detractors agreed to vote present, helping to reduce the number of votes needed to win the coveted deck. All 212 Democrats endorsed their candidate, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.
As he crossed the voting threshold, a beaming McCarthy received a raucous standing ovation and warm hugs from his colleagues. He recognized his wife and family in the gallery above as Republicans chanted «United States! United States!»
«There was great hope and then a breakdown and a comeback,» Rep. Patrick McHenry, RNC, a former member of McCarthy’s leadership team that nominated him earlier that day, told reporters of the «roller coaster.»
«There are so many twists and turns.»
Becoming Speaker of the Chamber has been a career ambition for McCarthy, who he served as a House staffer and California Assembly Minority Leader in Sacramento before being elected to the House in 2006. A prolific fundraiser and clapper, he has methodically risen through the ranks of the leadership team House Republican: Deputy Chief Whip, Whip, Majority Leader, and GOP Leader, for the past 14 years.
McCarthy, 57, is now the nation’s highest-ranking Republican and second in line for the presidency.
Jeffries handed McCarthy the deck shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday. In his acceptance speech, McCarthy promised that the House would be a check on President Joe Biden and his policies.
“You know, my father always told me: It’s not about how you start, it’s about how you finish,” said McCarthy, the son of a firefighter. «And now we have to finish strong for the American people.»
McCarthy’s victory came shortly after tempers boiled over and chaos erupted in the House of Representatives on Friday night when McCarthy and his allies suffered defeat on the 14th consecutive ballot after miscalculating they had the vote close. .
When his conservative detractors again denied McCarthy the gavel, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, the incoming chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee, charged at McCarthy’s foe, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and began shout angry. Representative Richard Hudson, RN.C., had to physically restrain Rogers, pulling his shoulders back and, at one point, placing his hands over Rogers’ mouth.
Others nearby also chimed in before Rogers left.
«That was a very tense moment and I was just trying to play a role to keep tensions down,» Hudson said as she left the flat.
Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., was sitting between Rogers and Gaetz when the altercation occurred. Photographs show that he also tried to restrain Rogers.
“It’s just an unfortunate moment, it’s all that it was. It shouldn’t have happened. I shouldn’t have crossed that line,» Burchett told reporters. “Nobody is going to put their hands on me, nobody is going to threaten me. That is. Bottom line.»
Moments earlier, McCarthy himself had walked from his seat, down the center aisle toward Gaetz and Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican, to try to swap their current votes for yes; that would have secured the speaker’s gavel for McCarthy.
But when he was unsuccessful, he provoked Rogers, who has served alongside Gaetz for years on the Armed Services committee.
«Just another Friday in Parliament,» Burchett quipped. «You know, democracy is not a pretty thing. It’s a fight all the time.»
Over three days this week, a group of about 20 hardline conservatives voted 11 consecutive times to stop McCarthy from winning the prized gavel, even as former President Donald Trump personally called on McCarthy’s enemies to end their opposition. Some called on McCarthy to step down, while others made demands that put his fragile Republican coalition of moderates and conservatives in jeopardy.
The intrapartisan standoff paralyzed the House of Representatives, preventing all 434 members from being sworn in, bills from being voted on and committees from being formed. Some lawmakers lamented losing their security clearances and not being able to receive classified reports.
It marked a rocky start for the new House Republican majority.
But a breakthrough came on day 4 of the stalemate. After days of difficult negotiations behind closed doors, leaders of the far-right House Freedom Caucus wrung a number of concessions from McCarthy. They included promised spending cuts; a package of rule changes that empowered members and diluted the power of the speaker; and give HFC members seats on the Rules, Appropriations and other powerful committees.
One key concession McCarthy made to the rioters: reinstating a rule that gives a single lawmaker the power to force a vote to remove a sitting speaker mid-term, a change that will almost certainly haunt McCarthy for months to come. . Earlier, McCarthy had agreed that at least five members would be needed to make that “motion to vacate” the speaker’s chair.
In return, when the clerk read the roll call on the 12th ballot Friday, 13 of the 20 rebel Conservatives switched their votes to McCarthy, giving him a boost after a grueling week of defeats.
On the next ballot, they were joined by a fourteenth opposition.
In a dramatic scene, Representatives Dan Bishop of South Carolina, Josh Brecheen of Oklahoma, Michael Cloud of Texas, Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Byron Donalds of Florida, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Anna Paulina Luna of Florida, Mary Miller of Illinois, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Andrew Ogles of Tennessee, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Keith Self of Texas and Chip Roy of Texas stood one by one on the House floor and announced their vote for McCarthy, encouraged by their fellow Republicans each time.
On the 13th ballot, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., also endorsed McCarthy after repeatedly opposing him.
A 15th Republican, Rep. Victoria Spartz of Indiana, switched her present vote to McCarthy.
The new endorsement still did not earn McCarthy a majority of the votes of all House members, which he needed to win the speaker’s gavel. But he gave it a much-needed boost as members watched closely whether support for him would wane or rise as the stalemate dragged on.
By Friday night, the reluctant finalists, once called the Never Kevins, conceded that McCarthy would be chosen as the speaker. Due to the narrow four-seat GOP majority, he needed every last vote to cross the finish line.
Representative Wesley Hunt flew back to Washington from Texas, where his wife had just given birth to their baby boy prematurely. And Rep. Ken Buck flew back from his Colorado home, where he had a doctor’s appointment.
After the successful vote, an exhausted but exuberant McCarthy walked into Statuary Hall, standing in front of reporters and television cameras and making sure to publicly acknowledge Donald Trump.
“I want to especially thank President Trump,” McCarthy said. «I don’t think anyone should doubt his influence. He was with me from the beginning…he was totally committed.»
He and his entourage then entered the speaker’s office. Above the door was a new sign: «House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.»