By LISA MASCARO and FARNUSH AMIRI (Associated Press)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected Speaker of the House after midnight in a historic 15th ballot early Saturday, overcoming opposition from within his own ranks and ground tensions boiling over after a chaotic week that eroded the new government’s ability to govern GOP majority put to the test.
“My dad always told me it’s not how you start, it’s how you stop,” McCarthy told jubilant Republicans.
Eager to confront President Joe Biden and the Democrats, he promised subpoenas and investigations. “Now the hard work begins,” said the California Republican.
Republicans roared with delight as his victory was announced, chanting “USA! UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!”
After a speaker was chosen, McCarthy took the oath of office, and the House could finally swear in newly elected lawmakers who had been waiting all week for the formal opening of the chamber and the start of the 2023-24 session.
After four days of grueling elections, McCarthy turned more than a dozen conservative holdouts into supporters, including the chair of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus.
On the fourteenth ballot he was a vote short, and the Chamber became noisy and unruly.
McCarthy went to the back of the chamber to confront Republican Matt Gaetz, who was sitting with Lauren Boebert and other holdouts. Fingers were pointed, words exchanged and violence apparently only averted.
At one point, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama approached Gaetz yelling before another Republican, Richard Hudson, physically pulled him back.
“Keep it civil!” someone shouted.
Order was restored, and the Republicans rallied to give McCarthy the post he had fought so hard for, Speaker of the House of Representatives, second in line to the Presidency.
The few Republican holdouts began voting in attendance, dropping the number he needed. It was the end of the bitter standoff that had revealed the strengths and weaknesses of American democracy.
The record was 216-212, with Democrats voting for leader Hakeem Jeffries and six Republican holdouts voting simply for McCarthy’s attendance.
The day’s amazing turn of events came after McCarthy agreed to many of the critics’ demands – including the reintroduction of a long-standing House rule that would allow any individual member to oust him from office.
Even if McCarthy has secured the votes he needs, he will emerge a weakened speaker, having relinquished some powers and faced 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 Biden.
At an event at the Capitol on Friday, some lawmakers, all but one Democrat, 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, Gaetz, railed against the GOP leader.
After three dismal days and 11 failed votes in an intra-party stalemate unseen in modern times, the night before the outlines of a deal with conservative holdouts that blocked McCarthy’s rise had emerged.
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 some holdouts — having hosted a gathering of Republican freshmen the night before and calling other members ahead of the vote. He had asked the Republicans to end their public dispute.
When Republican Mike Garcia nominated McCarthy on 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 Jeffries, Democrat Jim Clyburn recalled the horror of that day, telling his peers, “The eyes of the country are on us today,” he said.
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 House adjourned late into the night to allow time for last-minute negotiations and time for two absent Republican colleagues to return to Washington.
Newly elected Wesley Hunt of Texas came to vote for McCarthy – and applauded days after his wife gave birth to their newborn – as did Ken Buck of Colorado.
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 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-elected-house-speaker-in-rowdy-post-midnight-vote/ McCarthy was elected Speaker of the House in a noisy after midnight vote – Orange County Register