Republican Kevin McCarthy has been elected House speaker on a historic post-midnight 15th ballot early Saturday, overcoming holdouts from his own ranks and floor tensions that boiled over after a chaotic week that tested the new GOP majority’s ability to govern, ARISE TV reports.
“My father always told me, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” McCarthy told cheering fellow Republicans.
Eager to confront President Joe Biden and the Democrats, he promised subpoenas and investigations. “Now the hard work begins,” the California Republican declared. He credited former President Donald Trump for standing with him and for making late calls “helping get those final votes.”
Republicans roared in celebration when his victory was announced, chanting “USA! USA!”
Finally elected, McCarthy took the oath of office, and the House was finally able to swear in newly elected lawmakers who had been waiting all week for the chamber to formally open and the 2023-24 session to begin.
After four days of grueling ballots, McCarthy flipped more than a dozen conservative holdouts to become supporters, including the chairman of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus.
He fell one vote short on the 14th ballot, and the chamber became raucous, unruly.
McCarthy strode to the back of the chamber to confront Republican Matt Gaetz, sitting with Lauren Boebert and other holdouts. Fingers were pointed, words exchanged and violence apparently just averted.
At one point, Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama, shouting, approached Gaetz before another Republican, Richard Hudson, physically pulled him back.
“Stay civil!” someone shouted.
The tally was 216-212 with Democrats voting for leader Hakeem Jeffries, and six Republican holdouts to McCarthy simply voting present.
The night’s stunning turn of events came after McCarthy agreed to many of the detractors’ demands — including the reinstatement of a longstanding House rule that would allow any single member to call a vote to oust him from office.
Even as McCarthy secured the votes he needed, he would emerge as a weakened speaker, having given away some powers and constantly under the threat of being booted by his detractors.
But he could also be emboldened as a survivor of one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in U.S. history. Not since the Civil War era has a speaker’s vote dragged through so many rounds of voting.
The showdown that has stymied the new Congress came against the backdrop of the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, which shook the country when a mob of Trump’s supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying the Republicans 2020 election defeat to Biden.
At a Capitol event Friday, some lawmakers, all but one of them Democrats, observed a moment of silence and praised officers who helped protect Congress on that day. And at the White House, Biden handed out medals to officers and others who fought the attackers.
“America is a land of laws, not chaos,” he said.
At the afternoon speaker’s vote, a number of Republicans, tired of the spectacle, temporarily walked out when one of McCarthy’s most ardent challengers, Gaetz, railed against the GOP leader.
Contours of a deal with conservative holdouts who had been blocking McCarthy’s rise had emerged the night before, and took hold after four dismal days and 14 failed votes in an intraparty standoff unseen in modern times.
One significant former holdout — Republican Scott Perry, chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, who had been a leader of Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election — tweeted after his switched vote for McCarthy, “We’re at a turning point.”
Another Republican holdout, Byron Donalds of Florida, who was repeatedly nominated as an alternative candidate for speaker, switched Friday too, voting for McCarthy.
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