House Republicans elected Kevin McCarthy as the 55th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives after four days of humiliating defeats and multiple emasculating concessions to win over hard-line Republicans.
McCarthy claimed the gavel after winning a majority vote on the 15th ballot, the most since before the Civil War.
McCarthy clinched the position after some GOP defectors agreed to vote “present” rather than casting their ballot against him, a move that lowered the threshold for the GOP leader to prevail.
Reps. Lauren Boebert, Matt Rosendale, Andy Biggs, Eli Crane, Matt Gaetz, and Bob Good all voted ‘present,’ lowering the threshold that the California Republican needed to be elected as the speaker.
Gaetz, in a moment of theatrics, had his colleagues holding their breath in the 14th round of voting, as many thought that he’d be the vote that would seal McCarthy’s victory. When he voted “present,” he sparked a flurry of last-minute negotiations and Republicans pushed to come back for another round of voting.
But, at that point, his bargained-for vote was rendered virtually meaningless because his fellow holdouts voted ‘present’ as well.
The six holdouts flipped their votes from the previous round when they supported alternate candidates.
More than a dozen other Republican extremists that had refused to vote for McCarthy at least a dozen times switched to support his ascension earlier in the evening.
But McCarthy’s four-day slog to a win underscores the challenges he will face in guiding the GOP’s narrow House majority through the rest of this Congress. In order to secure the votes, he made a series of concessions to arch-conservatives that significantly empower his right flank at the expense of both his dignity and the power of the office.
McCarthy, 57, first elected to the House in 2006, will succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker but the turmoil surrounding his selection is likely just a preview of the chaos ahead as the House falls under very narrow GOP control.
“I’m going to get sworn in 1 a.m. on Saturday after two members almost got into a physical altercation on the House floor after my 15th vote for speaker on my fourth day here,” said Florida Democrat Maxwell Frost, who described his first week in Washington as “kind of a shit show.”
There is probably a lot more of that tome come, as many Republicans will find discomfort in the lengths McCarthy had to go in order to secure his position.
Republican Mike Rogers is said to be irate that Matt Gaetz struck a deal that will award him the gavel of a subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee, according to two people familiar with the dynamics.
Rogers, who is expected to be named by McCarthy to lead the Armed Services panel, reportedly believes there are people more qualified than Gaetz to head the subcommittee.