By LISA MASCARO and FARNUSH AMIRI (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was poised to become speaker of the House of Representatives late Friday night when the chamber called a historic 14.
Before the vote, McCarthy had turned 15 Conservative advocates into supporters, including the chair of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus, leaving few hesitating to pick up the gavel for the new Congress.
The House caved in late at night, giving time for last-minute negotiations and time for absent Republican colleagues to return to Washington if their votes were needed.
McCarthy told reporters that he believes “we will have the votes to end this once and for all.”
The stunning turnaround came after McCarthy agreed to many of the critics’ demands – including reinstating a long-standing House rule that would allow any individual member to demand a vote to oust them from office.
Even if McCarthy is able to secure the votes he needs, he will emerge as a weakened speaker who has ceded some power and faces constant threats of being booted by his detractors.
But he might also be encouraged as a survivor of one of the more brutal Battles for the Hammer in US history. Not since the days of the Civil War has a speaker’s voice dragged through so many rounds of voting.
The showdown that has stymied the new Congress came amid the second anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, which shook the country as a mob of supporters of then-President Donald Trump tried to block Congress prevent confirming the attack The 2020 Republican election loss to Democrat Joe Biden.
At an event at the Capitol on Friday, some lawmakers, mostly Democrats, observed a moment of silence and praised officials who helped protect Congress that day. And at the White House, Biden presented medals to officers and others who had fought the attackers.
“America is a land of law, not chaos,” he said.
At the afternoon speaker’s vote, some Republicans tired of the spectacle temporarily walked out as one of McCarthy’s most fervent challengers railed against the GOP leader.
“We don’t give Mr. McCarthy any power,” said Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, as colleagues poured out of the chamber to protest his comments.
After three dismal days and 11 failed votes in an intra-party stalemate unprecedented in modern times, the contours of a deal with conservative holdouts that blocked McCarthy’s rise began to emerge.
And an optimistic McCarthy told reporters upon arriving at the Capitol, “We’re going to make progress. We will shock you.”
A prominent former holdout, Republican Scott Perry, chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, who had been a leader in Trump’s efforts to contest the 2020 election, tweeted after his changed vote for McCarthy, “We are at a tipping point.”
Another Republican holdout, Byron Donalds of Florida, who has been repeatedly nominated as a running candidate for speaker, also switched on Friday, voting for McCarthy.
Trump may have played a role in influencing the holdouts. Donalds said he spoke to the former president, who the day before urged Republicans to end their public feud.
On the 12th ballot, McCarthy won the most votes for the first time with 213. A 13th was quickly started, this time squarely between McCarthy and the Democratic leader, and he picked up another critic on 214.
With 432 members voting — including the dramatic return of Democrat David Trone, who was out due to surgery — McCarthy still fell short of the majority. Six Republicans cast their ballots for a fellow Republican. McCarthy’s allies expected the return of two absent colleagues to bring him even closer to a majority in the night’s voting.
When Rep. Mike Garcia nominated McCarthy for Friday, he also thanked the US Capitol Police, who received a standing ovation for protecting the legislature and the democracy’s legislative seat on Jan. 6.
But in nominating Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat Jim Clyburn recalled the horror of that day, telling his peers, “The eyes of the country are on us today,” he said.
Without a speaker, the chamber cannot swear in members and begin its 2023-24 session, a sign of the difficulties the new Republican majority faces in its attempt to govern.
Choosing a speaker is usually an easy, joyful task for a party that has just won a majority. But not this time: Some 200 Republicans were stymied by 20 far-right colleagues who said he wasn’t conservative enough.
The disorganized start to the new Congress pointed to difficulties with Republicans, who now control the House, much like some previous Republican speakers, including John Boehner, have had trouble leading a rebellious right flank. The result: government shutdowns, standoffs, and Boehner’s early retirement when the Conservatives threatened to oust him.
The agreement McCarthy presented to Freedom Caucus holdouts and others focuses on rule changes they have been seeking for months. These changes would reduce the power of the Speaker’s Office and give ordinary legislators more leverage in drafting and passing legislation.
At the heart of the looming deal is the reintroduction of a house rule that would allow a single lawmaker to table a motion to “vacate the presidency,” essentially calling for a vote to impeach the speaker. McCarthy had refused to allow a return to the long-standing rule, which former Speaker Nancy Pelosi scrapped because it was held over the head of former Republican Speaker Boehner. But it seems McCarthy had no choice.
Other gains for the holdouts are more unclear and include provisions in the proposed deal to increase the number of available seats on the House Rules Committee, mandating 72 hours for the publication of bills before votes and promising to attempt a constitutional amendment to match the number to limit at the federal level the terms that a person can serve in the House of Representatives and Senate.
What began as a political novelty, when for the first time since 1923 a candidate did not win the gavel on the first ballot, has turned into a bitter Republican Party feud and a potential deepening of the crisis.
Before Friday’s election, New York’s Democratic leader Jeffries had won the most votes in each vote, but also narrowly managed to get a majority. McCarthy finished second and gained no ground.
The pressure on McCarthy has grown with each passing day to somehow find the voices he needs or step aside. With Congress unable to function fully, the new Republican chairmen of the House Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence Committees all said national security was at risk and employees risked missing out on paychecks.
The longest battle for the gavel began in late 1855 and lasted over two months, with 133 ballots won during the debates on slavery in the run-up to the Civil War.
AP writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking and video journalists Nathan Ellgren and Mike Pesoli contributed to this report.
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/06/mccarthy-close-to-becoming-speaker-in-late-night-vote/ McCarthy on the verge of becoming speaker at nighttime vote – Orange County Register