After a dramatic five days of long drawn-out fight consisting of 15 rounds of ballot voting, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) finally achieved his longtime goal of clinching the speakership in the midnight hour on Saturday, capping off a historic spectacle that hasn’t seen a battle for the gavel in over 100 years.
The final vote on the 15th ballot was 216 for McCarthy, 212 for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), and 6 “Present” votes. With 6 voting present, the crucial move lowered the threshold for a majority, paving McCarthy to way to win with only 215 votes.
The 6 Republican rebels Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Bob Good (R-VA), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), and Rep.-elect Eli Crane (R-AZ) all voted “present” on the 15th ballot.
The drawn-out Speakership fight was the first time that the Speaker vote went to multiple ballots since 1923. It marks history as the fifth-longest by the number of ballots and the longest since before the Civil War. The first two ballots that kicked off Tuesday saw 19 Republicans voting against McCarthy, with the count growing to 20 on the third ballow when Rep. Byron Donald (R-FL) flipped his support in joining the defectors. On Wednesday, the second day of voting, the fourth round of ballot saw another of McCarthy’s supporters, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) voting “Present,” a move the congresswoman argued was for her colleagues to “deliberate further… until we have enough votes and stop wasting everyone’s time.”
McCarthy remained tough despite suffering humiliating defeat vote after vote, with little sign that either side budging. A breakthrough would occur Thursday night when some of the Republican holdouts including Reps. Chip Roy of Texas Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Donalds met with McCarthy and his allies — Reps. French Hill of Arkansas, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota met behind the scenes to reach a deal.
Those efforts were paid off that culminated in a dramatic vote occurring Friday morning during the 12th round of ballot which saw 13 of the 20 deflectors flipping their votes for McCarthy. In the 13th round, Rep-Elect Andy Harris (R-MD) would become the 14th opponent to switch sides. After seeing progress, Republicans motion for the remarkable moment Friday evening in what McCarthy and allies believed the 14th round would be the historic final ballot.
However, a miscalculation in vote counting saw McCarthy being just one vote shy of the gavel. In an last ditched effort to make the 14th round the final, the defeated Republican leaders walked over to where Gaetz was sitting in an attempt to lobby the Florida lawmaker. McCarthy’s effort ultimately failed to convince either Gaetz or Boebert to flip their vote, with the scene showing the beleaguered leader walking away in defeat, acknowledging the pandemonium would not end as projected.
The House chamber descended to drama and chaos when Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), a staunch McCarthy ally angrily approach Gaetz in what appeared to lunch at the Florida congressman. The tense moment saw incoming National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Richard Hudson (R-NC) physically restraining the Rogers to pull him away in attempts to prevent Republican lawmakers coming into a near blown out fight.
Rogers, according to sources had growing increasingly angry at Republican “Taliban 19” holdouts, in particular Gaetz during the week. Earlier the week, Rogers had pledged to try to strip any members who voted against McCarthy, a threat that fueled deflectors to call his bluff.
Another move in attempt to sway the GOP holdouts would come from former President Trump Wednesday morning, who issued a full-throated endorsement of McCarthy.
“Some really good conversations took place last night, and it’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” Trump wrote in a post on the Truth Social media platform. “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT.”
Despite doubling down his support for McCarthy and making behind-the-scenes calls, Trump failed to swing any of the 20 of his staunches allies who remained deadlocked in going against the Republican leader. While his public endorsement fell flat, Trump, according to sources continued to work the phones throughout the week in reaching out to the handful of “Never Kevin” rebels, in particular targeting two members — Rosendale and freshman-elected Crane. Both at the 15th final ballot opted to vote present in helping to enable McCarthy’s win.
To win the Speakership, McCarthy agreed to several rules changes and concessions to opponents who are members of the House Freedom Caucus. The most notable change that many believe would weaken McCarthy’s power as Speaker was allowing a single member to issue a motion to vacate the chair, forcing a vote to oust the California Republican. Other concessions include McCarthy’s aligned Super PAC pledging not to get involved in Republican primaries, giving Freedom Caucus members three seats on the House Rules Committee along with other committee assignments. McCarthy also agreed to allow spending bills to be considered under open rules that in would in turn divide the appropriations bills back into 12 individual measures.
Perry, the Freedom Caucus chairman, told reporters that he decided to vote for McCarthy after that framework was put on the table. But Perry also made clear his support for McCarthy was conditional on the terms of the deal holding up, noting if “the framework blows up” he is “out.”
Ahead of the final voting that crowned McCarthy the speakership, the Republican rules package was released that would the “framework” and considerable concessions McCarthy agreed to in exchange for the many of deflectors supports. The package also allows makes it harder for the House to raise spending, taxes and the debt limit.118th CongressCongressHakeem JeffriesHouseHouse Freedom CaucusHouse SpeakerKevin McCarthyRep. Andy BiggsRep. Bob GoodsRep. Byron DonaldsRep. Chip RoyRep. Lauren BoebartRep. Lauren BoebertRep. Matt GaetzRep. Matt RosendaleRep. Mike RogersRep. Scott PerryRepublicans