New Speaker of the House elected after 14 failed votes

House rebels finally gave in and elected McCarthy.

After 15 rounds of voting and countless concessions, California Representative Kevin McCarthy (R) was finally elected Speaker of the House. The position (previously held by California Democrat Nancy Pelosi) is typically awarded to the leader of the majority party. McCarthy, having previously served as House Minority Leader, was set to take over as speaker in the new term.

However, a few far-right hold-outs prevented McCarthy from gaining a majority in the first 14 rounds. The rebels included Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, two of the more inflammatory members of the current Congress. However, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Jim Jordan, who frequently align themselves with many of the dissenters, were both staunch McCarthy supporters during voting. Of these original 20 dissenters, 19 were associated with the House Freedom Caucus, a far-right group of representatives.

Many of these “Never Kevins” cite an unsatisfactory rules package as the reason for their refusal to vote for him. However, Oklahoma’s newest Senator and McCarthy supporter Markwayne Mullin theorized on Fox News that these controversial representatives were seeking time in the limelight. Those believing the theory point to a video captured on the House floor during voting. During the 12th round of voting, Matt Rosendale of Montana cast his vote for “Kevin… Hern” before retreating to his seat with a smirk. It is this display, coupled with the fact that the dissenters appeared to not have a legitimate alternative to McCarthy, that points to spectacle over principle.

As voting wore on, several Republicans received votes from the rebels. Votes were cast in favor of McCarthy supporters Jordan, Byron Donalds, Andy Biggs, non-House member Donald Trump, and Oklahoma’s Hern. During the 11th round of voting, Hern received seven votes, the fourth most votes received in that round. Hern himself voted for McCarthy in every vote.

Finally, at the end of the night on Friday, Jan. 6, it appeared that McCarthy might have finally had the votes. The House had been in recess all afternoon, so that Republicans could negotiate the rules package to end the madness. McCarthy appeared very confident that he had the votes heading into the 14th round, but a shocking vote of “present” by Gaetz ended these hopes. Following the 14th round, McCarthy stood up and bee-lined for Gaetz, seemingly distraught over his vote. Soon, a large group gathered around Gaetz, seated next to ally Lauren Boebert. Many Republicans appeared to be expressing anger at Gaetz, including Alabama Representative Mike Rogers, who had to be physically restrained.

Notably, McCarthy did not need to persuade any more House Republicans to vote for him. He could have simply convinced them to vote “present” instead of for a candidate, because this brings down the overall number needed for a majority. For example, if every member of the House were voting for a candidate, McCarthy would have needed 218 votes. However, if anyone voted “present” instead, he would have needed 217.

According to reports from the House floor, Gaetz wanted to recess until Monday. The House took a vote to recess, which appeared to pass, until some sort of watershed moment occurred between the dissenters and McCarthy advocates. Many House Republicans changed their votes from “yea” to “nay”, leading until another vote. Finally, McCarthy won the vote, ending with 216 votes to Democrat Hakeem Jeffries’ 212. McCarthy was able to win with fewer than 218 votes as a result of six Republican members voting “present”.

Despite the apparent chaos on the Republican side, Democrats remained in staunch support of Jeffries, the new leader of House Democrats. He rewarded this support by giving a rousing speech about the differences between Democrats and Republicans before handing off the gavel to newly elected Speaker McCarthy.

Most of McCarthy’s concessions have to do with the new rules package, including making it easier to oust the Speaker. Despite the shocking display of infighting the nation beheld during the Speaker vote, McCarthy seems optimistic that the House Republicans will be able to accomplish their agenda in the coming term.

Post Author: Victoria Grossman