McCarthy Wins Speakership in Post-Midnight Session

January 7, 2023 by Dan McCue
McCarthy Wins Speakership in Post-Midnight Session
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of Calif., reacts after being sworn in on the House floor at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, early Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., won election as House Speaker early Saturday morning after a last minute maneuver at the end of the 15th round of voting forestalled a motion for adjournment and another potential round of voting next week.

“My father always told me, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” McCarthy told cheering fellow Republicans as he banged the speaker’s gavel for the first time.

McCarthy had cut a tentative deal with members of the House Freedom Caucus early Friday, flipping most of the ultraconservative lawmakers who had opposed him during the 12th and 13th votes earlier in the day.

The chamber then adjourned until 10 p.m. last night and by the time members finished their dinner of Five Guys Burger and Fries and grilled cheese sandwiches, word was that McCarthy had secured enough votes to win.


To seemingly ensure that was the case, the prospective speaker even called two supporters with other serious matters on their mind back to Washington to cast critical votes in his favor.

These included Rep. Ken Buck, of Colorado, who previously opposed McCarthy’s ascendance to House speaker but had had a change of heart in the past two days, and Rep. Wesley Hunt, of Texas, who had returned home to be with his wife after her hospitalization for complications in the premature birth of their son this week.

In a written statement released early Saturday morning, Buck said “My support for speaker McCarthy reflects my desire to get to work for the millions of Americans who have put their faith in us to lead.

“In the 118th Congress, I am determined to fight alongside my colleagues to deliver the results that the Republican majority promised, including greater freedom, less spending, holding Big Tech accountable, promoting stronger schools, supporting law enforcement, and securing our nation’s border. It’s time to get to work,” the congressman said.

But even with those votes in his pocket, McCarthy couldn’t avoid some last minute drama.

As the 14th vote got underway, Rep. Lauren Boebert, of Colorado, a member of the “Never Kevin” contingent of House Republicans, cleared one of the few remaining obstacles to his election voting “present,” lowering his threshold to victory.

But McCarthy remained one vote short and two of the three remaining holdouts, Reps. Eli Crane, of Arizona, and Matt Rosendale, of Montana, voted against him.

That left McCarthy’s fate in the hands of his harshest critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Florida.

Gaetz did not vote when his name was called, waiting until the end of the roll call vote to vote “present.”

Republicans in the chamber initially cheered what they thought was McCarthy’s sealed victory, but it turned out he needed one last vote in his favor.


McCarthy jumped from his seat and hastily moved toward Gaetz and Boebert, with whom he appeared to plead for them to change their votes.

As the conversation grew more animated, Rep. Mike Rogers, of Alabama, appeared to step toward Gaetz in a menacing manner.

Another Republican, Richard Hudson, of Virginia, pulled him back.

“Stay civil!” someone shouted.

With violence averted and Gaetz refusing to change his vote, McCarthy’s allies then moved to adjourn the House to Monday. But then, just as the vote was being tallied, three Republicans who had voted for McCarthy — Reps. Andy Biggs, of Arizona; Bob Good, of Virginia, and Rosendale, all switched their votes to “present,” lowering the bar just enough to bring the speaker’s vote to a conclusion.

The final tally was 216 for McCarthy and 212 for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic leader, with six, all Republicans, voting “present.”

McCarthy immediately turned to swearing in the 434 members of the House to officially seat the 118th Congress, but Republicans will wait until Monday to consider a package of rules for the chamber.

Over the past five days, McCarthy has agreed to a number of concessions with the party’s conservatives that will be enshrined in that rules package.

Many observers said this week that the power he gave away to secure the speakership will diminish his power and make for an ineffective chamber.

Among other things, McCarthy agreed to allow a single lawmaker to force a snap vote at any time to oust the speaker.

Also part of his deal with the Freedom Caucus, was a commitment to give them over a third of the seats on the powerful Rules Committee, which controls what legislation reaches the floor and how it is debated. 

He also agreed to open government spending bills to a freewheeling debate in which any lawmaker could force votes on proposed changes.

“What we’re seeing is the incredibly shrinking speakership, and that’s most unfortunate for Congress,” former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said as she passed a phalanx of reporters as she headed into the chamber Friday afternoon.


Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

 

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