UPDATE: Kevin McCarthy, in his first speech after being elected speaker, said, “I hope that one thing is clear after this week: I never give up.”
“My father always told me: It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish. We have got to finish strong for the American people.”
But he signaled that Republicans would conduct an extensive series of inquiries and investigations. “Let me be clear: We will use the power of the purse and the power of the subpoena to get the job done.” He promised probes of the “origins of Covid and the weaponization of the FBI.”
After his own swearing in, at 1:35 AM ET on Saturday, McCarthy gave the oath to all of the members of the 118th Congress.
PREVIOUSLY: Kevin McCarthy won the speakership on the 15th House ballot, ending weeklong drama, GOP discord that at times played out on the House floor.
Enough of the remaining GOP holdouts to McCarthy voted “present” in the latest roll call to lower the threshold and allow him to secure a majority. By contrast to previous votes, none of the other GOP members voted for alternative candidates. The final vote, at about 12:35 PM ET, was 216 for McCarthy for 212 for Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader.
As the roll call ended, colleagues hugged McCarthy. As the clerk announced that McCarthy had won the vote, members erupted again in cheers. Some of the holdouts, like Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, very gently clapped.
For a time, it looked as if the vote would be extended to Monday, as McCarthy’s team sought to adjourn until Monday. But as that recorded vote neared its end, McCarthy apparently got word that more members would vote present, and he and other Republicans rushed to change their votes to keep Congress in session for the final vote.
McCarthy has long prized the speaker post, the second in line to the presidency, but he faced the most contentious fight for that job in a century. Nineteen and then 20 members refused to vote for him over 11 ballots, with one member voting present, as they held out after more than a month of negotiations. Over the past few days, he and his allies engaged in an intense period of talks to try to win them over — or at least change the nature of their opposition. That included making a number of concessions.
PREVIOUSLY: A dramatic few moments unfolded on the House floor, all captured live by C-SPAN cameras, as Kevin McCarthy confronted Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), a holdout who has been the key to his effort to secure a majority for the speakership in the latest vote.
At one point, Rep. Mike Rogers attempted to lunge at Gaetz, who voted “present,” enough to deny McCarthy a majority. Cameras caught another member-elect, Richard Hudson, grab Rogers, restraining him by putting his hand over his mouth and pulling him back.
McCarthy had walked down the aisle to Gaetz for a conversation, apparently in an effort to get him to change his vote. After a bit, voices were raised between the two.
This intense scene came on the second anniversary of the January 6th attack, when members had barricaded the doors, several feet away from where the latest incident occurred, to keep rioters from getting access to the chamber.
Gaetz voted “present” after having been engaged in an extended conversation with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NE), a key McCarthy ally.
Cameras also caught another moment, when Marjorie Taylor Greene, a McCarthy ally, tried to hand her phone to one of the holdouts, Matt Rosendale. The ID on the phone read “DT,” perhaps the initials of Donald Trump, who has been contacting members who had refused to vote for McCarthy.
Democrats got up from their seats to watch the scene unfold. Jeffries reportedly said, “Just another day at the park.” Earlier, Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) was spotted reading the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F-ck.
PREVIOUSLY: Kevin McCarthy sought to lock up the votes to be elected speaker of the House as the yet-to-be-sworn-in members elected gathered for a late-night 14th roll call.
The vote will be close. In the most recent roll call, McCarthy mustered 114 votes, again falling short of a majority, with six Republicans still holding out.
There was buzz that some of them, like Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who earlier gave a blistering floor speech against McCarthy, would simply vote “present” and lower the threshold he needed to win. CNN reported that Gaetz was seen walking out of McCarthy’s office, but he would not say how he would vote.
There also was an expectation that two Republicans who have been absent from Friday’s roll calls would return, again helping McCarthy’s chances.
Some Democrats, meanwhile, appear resigned to the possibility that the weeklong standoff among Republicans would soon come to an end. They had relished in 11 straight votes where Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries had garnered the most votes of any speaker candidate, albeit not enough of a majority.
“The word is circling around. The intent is still strong. Kevin McCarthy is still standing,” one Democratic lawmaker said before entering the chamber.
If McCarthy is able to pull out a victory tonight, the plans are to move to the swearing in of the members and then to the passing of a rules package. There is some concern among Republicans that, given some of McCarthy’s concessions to the Freedom Caucus right, a handful of moderates will vote against the package.
In nominating McCarthy, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) countered President Joe Biden’s remark about the protracted process, that it was “embarrassing.”
“We know it is messy, but open and transparent debate is what sets us apart from authoritarian regimes,” McHenry said.
McCarthy has been able to sway dissident lawmakers — which numbered 20 until this morning — by making a series of concessions that reportedly include spots on the Rules Committee and another provisions regarding spending limits and the debt ceiling. The concessions appear to be giving more power to the Freedom Caucus.
As he nominated Jeffries, Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) slammed the concessions as ones that will “set the path for division and default.”