After 15 Rounds, McCarthy Elected Speaker

Victory followed chaotic scenes on House floor
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 6, 2023 11:17 PM CST
In 14th Round, McCarthy Falls Short by One Vote
Rep. Bryan Steill holds up the tally sheet in the House chamber after Rep. Kevin McCarthy was elected as speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, early Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It was 15th time that proved lucky for Rep. Kevin McCarthy—the Republican was elected speaker of the House at around 12:30am ET Saturday after the longest speakership election since 1859. He received a standing ovation after getting 216 votes in the 15th round of voting. Six Republicans voted "present." As in most of the previous 14 rounds, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries received all 212 Democratic votes. The victory followed extraordinary scenes of chaos on the House floor. After McCarthy failed to win the speakership on a 14th ballot late Friday, tensions boiled over. McCarthy had appeared poised to win but Rep. Matt Gaetz, the last holdout to vote, voted "present," leaving McCarthy one vote short of a majority. McCarthy strode to the back of the chamber to confront Gaetz, who was sitting with Lauren Boebert and other holdouts.

Fingers were pointed, words exchanged and violence apparently just averted, the AP reports. At one point, Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama started to charge toward Gaetz before Richard Hudson physically pulled him back. "Stay civil!" someone shouted. There was a vote to adjourn—but Republicans led by McCarthy started changing their votes to stay in session, and the 15th round of voting began as the clock neared midnight. Before the 14th vote, McCarthy had flipped 15 conservative holdouts to become supporters, including the chairman of the chamber's Freedom Caucus, leaving him just a few shy of seizing the gavel for the new Congress.

The day'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. Sources tell the New York Times that after the 14th round, Gaetz and at least one other holdout changed their votes after a call from Donald Trump. McCarthy will be a weakened speaker, having given away some powers, and will constantly be under the threat of being booted by his detractors, the AP notes. But he could also be emboldened as a survivor of one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in US history. This story has been updated with McCarthy's victory. (Read more Speaker of the House stories.)

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