WASHINGTON — Republican Kevin McCarthy flipped several colleagues to support him in dramatic votes Friday for House speaker, a major sign of progress for the embattled leader on the fourth day and 12th ballot of a grueling standoff that is testing American democracy.
The changed votes from the conservative holdouts, including the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, put McCarthy closer to seizing the gavel. The stunning turnaround 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.
Fourteen Republicans who had been voting for someone else or voting “present” flipped their votes to the Republican leader.
It was the first time McCarthy had won the most votes, 213, though he still fell short of a majority.
A 13th vote was swiftly launched, this time, just between McCarthy and the Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries, without a Republican challenger to siphon GOP votes away.
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 then-President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying the Republican’s 2020 election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.
Republicans Protest Remarks by Gaetz
For a few minutes in the House chamber. Republicans tiring of the spectacle walked out in protest when one of McCarthy’s most ardent challengers railed against the GOP leader.
“We do not trust Mr. McCarthy with power,” said Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida, as colleagues streamed out of the chamber in protest of his remarks.
Contours of a deal with conservative holdouts who have been blocking McCarthy’s rise emerged but was still out of reach after three dismal days and 11 failed votes in a political spectacle unseen in a century.
Arriving at the Capitol Friday morning, an upbeat McCarthy said to reporters, “We’re going to make progress. We’re going to shock you.”
McCarthy: ‘We’re Going to Shock You’
But there’s no deal yet, he told colleagues on a private morning call, according to a Republican familiar with the call and granted anonymity to discuss it.
Voting resumed after Republican Rep. Mike Garcia nominated McCarthy for a 12th time, also thanking the U.S. Capitol Police who were given a standing ovation for protecting lawmakers and the legislative seat of democracy on Jan. 6.
The chamber is unable to swear in members and begin its 2023-24 session. McCarthy told lawmakers there were no plans to adjourn for the weekend, one Republican said, but it might be difficult to keep them in town.