US: McCarthy finally elected House Speaker - Dispatch Weekly

January 7, 2023 - Reading time: 5 minutes

Kevin McCarthy has been elected as the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives following arguments that nearly resulted in physical altercations between Republicans.

Despite his party having a majority in the House, it took Mr. McCarthy 15 rounds of voting to get the position.

The dramatic lobbying campaign to get party dissident Matt Gaetz to vote for Mr. McCarthy took place live on the House floor before it happened.

The congressman from Florida was one of six sceptics who caved in late on Friday.

Rep. Mike Rogers, a backer of Mr. McCarthy, and Mr. Gaetz had previously engaged in heated exchanges in the chamber and nearly exchanged blows. The congressman from Alabama yelled and pointed his finger at Mr. Gaetz, and his colleagues had to physically detain him.

The Speaker controls legislative action and establishes the House’s agenda. After the President and  Vice-President, the position of Speaker is next in line in Washington’s power structure.

Following his confirmation, Mr. McCarthy expressed the following on Twitter: “I hope one thing is clear after this week: I will never give up. And I will never give up for you, the American people.”

According to Mr. McCarthy, former President Trump assisted him in winning the decisive votes. He told reporters, “I don’t believe anyone should doubt his influence.”

“He was with me from the beginning – he would call me and he would call others,” he said.

US President Joe Biden praised Mr. McCarthy for his victory and expressed his eagerness to work with the Republican Party.

He stated: “The American people expect their leaders to govern in a way that puts their needs above all else, and that is what we need to do now.”

Republicans have already promised to start looking into Mr. Biden’s government and family business dealings.

In a stunning change of events, Mr. McCarthy was successful in convincing 14 Republican holdouts to vote for him in the 12th round of voting. The thirteenth ballot was followed by a fifteenth rebel.

McCarthy asserted to reporters that he would “have the votes” to win the speakership in the subsequent round after the 13th vote was called off.

The California congressman once again lost on the 14th ballot, this time falling three votes shy of the 217 votes required to capture the coveted role.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus were among the dissidents, and they contended that Mr. McCarthy is not conservative enough to lead them as they strive to thwart Democratic President Joe Biden’s plan.

Mr. McCarthy has made a number of concessions to the rebels, including a position on the powerful rules committee that determines how legislation is discussed in the chamber.

The Republican alliance might easily splinter once more even after Mr. McCarthy’s success because he also agreed to lower the bar for calling a vote on whether to remove the Speaker to only one House member.

The House floor erupted in cheers as Ryan Zinke, a lawmaker from Montana, cast the final vote, signalling that Mr. McCarthy had finally won.

McCarthy gave other lawmakers hugs and autographs while the Democratic side of the room remained utterly silent. No Democrats cheered.

Senior Democratic Party legislators compared the standoff to the riot on Capitol Hill precisely two years earlier by Trump supporters who disrupted Mr. Biden’s certification as President and accused Mr. McCarthy of handing control to a radical wing of his party.

Congressman Eric Swalwell posted on Twitter: “Two years ago insurrectionists failed to take over the Capitol. Tonight Kevin McCarthy let them take over the Republican Party.”

Don Beyer, a congressman from Virginia, also mentioned the irate Republican reactions after the 14th count.

“Unsettling that this process ends in threats of violence in the House Chamber, on this of all days,” he said. “Maybe it didn’t determine the outcome, but that is no way to conduct the people’s business. A dark and sobering moment will probably be remembered long after this session ends.”

Mr. McCarthy finally hugged House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries after receiving the Speaker’s gavel.

The minority Democrats had persisted in supporting their leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the first black person to ever head a political party in Congress.

The first day that Mr. McCarthy’s vote total really exceeded Mr. Jeffries’s was Friday.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. McCarthy listed a number of Republican policy goals, such as reducing costs, safeguarding the US-Mexico border, and combating what he called a “woke indoctrination.”

He stated that stopping “wasteful Washington spending” was one of his major priorities.

Around 2:00 local time (07:00 GMT) on Saturday, 14 hours after the gavel initially rung at midday, the MPs started to leave the Congress.

The lower chamber of Congress has not voted this many times to choose a speaker since 1860, during the lead-up to the American Civil War. There were 44 rounds of voting back then.

Republicans took control of the House in November’s midterm elections, although by a narrower margin than many had predicted – 222 to 212. The Senate is still run by Democrats.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.