Kevin McCarthy Is Finally Speaker. Let’s See If He Can Get a Word In
Kevin McCarthy, despite all odds, and after a historic lapse in government function, has finally been elected House Speaker.
Following four days of voting, McCarthy won the speakership early Saturday morning with 215 votes on the 15th ballot. Six Republican holdouts ended up voting “present,” lowering the threshold McCarthy needed to meet to win. The resolution of this chaotic process, the first time in a century that the United States House of Representatives failed to elect a speaker on the first ballot, came after days of backdoor dealings and negotiations with a group of roughly 20 ultra-right-wing dissenters, who had been blocking his bid.
McCarthy’s detractors, among whom were firebrands like Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Scott Perry, and Andy Biggs, demanded a slate of concessions, including better committee assignments, the ability for one lawmaker to call a snap vote on McCarthy’s speakership at any time, pledges to bring forward specific pieces of legislation, and even, per one member, the promise to shut down the government over any attempt to increase the debt limit. They held steadfast in their opposition to McCarthy, despite the nominations of prominent ultraconservative colleagues like Jim Jordan, and even Donald Trump himself.
The gridlock appeared to loosen Thursday night, and by Friday afternoon McCarthy, though still losing, was flipping votes back to his side by promising seats on preferred committees and a series of parliamentary changes, such as giving any individual lawmaker the power to call a no confidence vote against the speaker, giving lawmakers more time to read legislation, and making it easier to amend bills. That was apparently enough to sweeten the deal for most of the remaining holdouts. “What we’ve witnessed is monumental and a testament to how government should function in our Constitutional Republic,” Byron Donalds, one of them, said in a statement about flipping his vote in support of McCarthy, framing days of chaos as democracy in action. The anti-McCarthy faction had nominated Donalds as a possible speaker for several days.
“We’re at the stage right now where I’m running out of things to ask for,” Gaetz, one of the most outspoken members of the “Never Kevin” contingent, said Friday night on Fox News before voting resumed at 10 p.m. Gaetz, who did not vote when his name was initially called on the 14th ballot, stoked drama in Congress (and TV studios), as it became apparent that one more vote for McCarthy would have given him the gavel. Yet Gaetz voted “present,” prompting McCarthy to pay him a visit as tensions flared in the chamber, complete with Mike Rogers being restrained.