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Kevin McCarthy wins speaker race after a grueling 4 days and 15 rounds of voting

Posted at 10:46 PM, Jan 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-07 19:59:39-05

After a stunning turn of events Friday night that forced a 15th ballot in the race for House speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, finally secured enough votes shortly after midnight to become speaker of the House.

His victory followed four days of voting and persistent negotiations with far-right members of the Republican conference, who kept a win at bay until the 15th round of voting. The selection of a speaker now paves the way for those elected in November to take their oaths of office and the House to organize. The chamber is set to vote Monday to adopt a rules package governing the 118th Congress, which includes the concessions made by McCarthy in talks with conservative holdouts.

McCarthy won 216-212, convincing enough of his GOP colleagues who had voted against him to support his bid. The six remaining Republicans who withheld their support for McCarthy up to the final ballot — Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Eli Crane of Arizona, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Bob Good of Virginia and Matt Rosendale of Montana — voted present.

Republicans broke out in raucous applause, and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana embraced McCarthy, as the final Republican in the alphabetical roll call, Rep.-elect Ryan Zinke of Montana, cast his vote for the California Republican.

McCarthy had hoped to win the speaker's gavel Friday night in the 14th round, but his fate was in the hands of Rep. Matt Gaetz. McCarthy needed Gaetz to vote for him. And when Gaetz voted "present," he tanked McCarthy's chance to bring the speaker's election to an end in that round.

The vote prompted an escalation in tensions on the Republican side, and GOP Rep. Mike Rogers approached Gaetz and was pulled away.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., left, pulls Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., back as they talk with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and other during the 14th round of voting for speaker as the House meets for the fourth day to try and elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. At right is Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

McCarthy himself stalked up the aisle of the House floor to speak directly with Gaetz, who was seated next to Colorado GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert and could be seen gesturing toward McCarthy and an aide.

McCarthy then turned away, walked back down the aisle and returned to his seat, where his leadership team encircled him.

The vote ended with McCarthy garnering 216 votes to Jeffries' 212. Other Republicans received four votes, and two — Gaetz and Boebert — voted "present."

Republicans moved to adjourn until Monday, and a recorded vote is taking place.

The House gaveled in just after 10 p.m., and after a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, began the 14th vote for the speaker race.

"Dear God, it seems this evening we may at last be standing at the threshold of a new Congress," House Chaplain Margaret Kibben said in her opening prayer.

The House broke into applause as Kibben concluded her prayer.

GOP Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, one of the chief negotiators, then rose to nominate McCarthy for speaker on the 14th ballot, prompting cheers from fellow Republicans.

"It's been a long week and a lot of attention has been placed upon us here in the House, but then again I state that to the most famous woman in Washington this week," he said to House Clerk Cheryl Johnson.

McHenry also offered thanks to House staff as McCarthy made his way to the House floor and took his seat next to the lectern on the Republican side.

"It's called democracy, and this is a hallmark of a free society, where every voice and every vote counts," he said, adding that the four days of voting represent the "free and open exchange of ideas."

McCarthy, McHenry said, has allowed members across the Republican conference to have a say in how the House will be run.

"He cares so much about members, not for politics but because he cares about people," McHenry said, praising McCarthy's optimism and relentlessness. "The man does not quit."

Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar of California then rose to nominate Jeffries for speaker, garnering cheers from Democrats.

"He is a voice for the people and madam clerk, this is the people's house," Aguilar said of Jeffries.

There was no nomination for a third candidate in this vote.

Voting began after the House adjourned Friday afternoon following two vote series, giving McCarthy allies time to negotiate with hardline conservative holdouts, and time for Republicans members absent for medical and family emergency reasons to return to Washington, D.C.

McCarthy had some momentum going into the 14th round of voting, after gaining 15 Republican votes Friday afternoon — the first significant movement, after days of failed votes and stalemates. The remaining Republican holdouts are Reps. Andy Biggs, Eli Crane, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Bob Good and Matt Rosendale, and McCarthy still needs two of them to switch their votes after the two Republicans absent earlier today made it back for the vote. McCarthy must win a majority of votes cast.

Gaetz, Boebert and Biggs have been among those most vocal in their opposition to McCarthy.