On Saturday, Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected House speaker after a historic 15th ballot in a post-midnight session that lasted into the early hours of the morning. McCarthy fell one vote short on the 14th ballot, leading to a chaotic and raucous scene in the chamber as fingers were pointed and words exchanged between McCarthy and holdout Republican Matt Gaetz.
Order was eventually restored, and McCarthy secured the support of more than a dozen conservatives who had been holding out, including the chairman of the Freedom Caucus. The vote was 216-212, with Democrats voting for leader Hakeem Jeffries and six Republican holdouts simply voting present.
McCarthy took the oath of office and the House was finally able to swear in newly elected lawmakers who had been waiting all week for the chamber to formally open and the 2023-24 session to begin. McCarthy promised subpoenas and investigations as he vowed to confront President Joe Biden and the Democrats. His victory came after a chaotic week that tested the new GOP majority’s ability to govern and ended a bitter standoff that had stymied the new Congress.
Even as McCarthy secured the votes he needed, he will emerge as a weakened speaker, having given away some powers and constantly under the threat of being booted by his detractors. However, he could also be emboldened as a survivor of one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in US history.
Not since the Civil War era has a speaker’s vote dragged through so many rounds of voting. The showdown took place against the backdrop of the second anniversary of the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, which was sparked by a mob of Donald Trump’s supporters trying to stop Congress from certifying his 2020 election defeat to Biden.
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