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McCarthy Elected House Speaker in Vote 15 After Chaotic Week
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By Associated Press
Published 1 year ago on
January 7, 2023

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WASHINGTON — Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected House speaker on a historic post-midnight 15th ballot early Saturday, overcoming holdouts from his own ranks and floor tensions boiling over after a chaotic week that tested the new GOP majority’s ability to govern.

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, leaving him just a few shy of seizing the gavel for the new Congress.

As the House resumed for the late night session McCarthy had been on the cusp of victory in the 14th round but he fell one vote short.

He strode to the back of the chamber to confront 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 started to charge toward Gaetz before another Republican, Richard Hudson, physically pulled him back.

“Stay civil!” someone shouted.

Republicans quickly moved to adjourn, but then McCarthy rushed forward to switch his vote to remain in session as colleagues chanted “One more time!”

The few Republican holdouts began voting present as well, dropping the tally he needed to finally seize the gavel in what was heading toward a dramatic finish on the fourth long day of a grueling standoff that has shown the strengths and fragility American democracy.

McCarthy had declared to reporters earlier in the day that he believed “we’ll have the votes to finish this once and for all.”

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.

Even if McCarthy is able to secure the votes he needs, he will 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 then-President Donald Trump’s supporters tried to stop Congress from certifying the Republican’s 2020 election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., reacts after losing the 14th vote in the House chamber as the House meets for the fourth day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

At a Capitol event on Friday, some lawmakers, mostly 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 tiring of the spectacle temporarily walked out when one of McCarthy’s most ardent challengers railed against the GOP leader.

Contours of a deal with conservative holdouts who have been blocking McCarthy’s rise emerged after three dismal days and 11 failed votes in an intraparty standoff unseen in modern times.

And an upbeat McCarthy told reporters as he arrived at the Capitol, “We’re going to make progress. We’re going to shock you.”

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