by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 7, 2023) — Shortly before 1:00 a.m. Saturday, Rep. Kevin McCarthy was elected the 55th Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 118th Congress on the 15th round of balloting with a total of 216 votes.
After winning the election, McCarthy collectively swore in all new and returning members of the lower chamber, who can now be termed, “Congressman” rather than “Congressman-elect.”
The final vote marked the end of what became a tense and dramatic week, beginning Tuesday, of floor debate in which 20 Republican members indicated they could not support McCarthy and wanted definitive change in the way Congress conducts its business.
Beginning late Wednesday, former president and 2024 presidential candidate Donald J. Trump predicted “good things” would unfold for the Republican Party, including in 2024. Trump had pledged his support of McCarthy prior to Tuesday, when the new House convened at noon.
Republicans gained the majority in the November 8 elections, although by a slim margin of 222 to Democrats’ 212, with one vacancy.
In all 15 rounds, newly-minted Democrat leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York garnered 212 votes.
Tuesday’s noon call to order followed closed-door meetings during which McCarthy had failed to convince 20 Republicans, including Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Chip Roy of Texas, among others, to vote for him.
Over the week, many opined that McCarthy appeared unable to convince the “holdouts” to change their minds and should withdraw his name from consideration. Another view was that the “insurgents” should simply coalesce around McCarthy in order to jump-start the business of the new House of Representatives as soon as possible.
The group of 20 consisted primarily of “Freedom Caucus” members who support Trump, wish to see spending in Washington curbed and demanded a change in key House rules and membership on the House Rules Committee. Reportedly, McCarthy acceded to virtually, if not all, of their demands, and on Friday night, Boebert and Gaetz indicated to “Hannity” host Sean Hannity a positive view of the way in which the process would soon conclude.
In the last vote, taken early Saturday morning after the 14th round failed to elect a Speaker, Boebert, Gaetz and four others voted “present” rather than for another House member or non-member, which had occurred earlier in the week.
Some in the mainstream media are claiming McCarthy is “weakened” by the week-long contentious debate and “concessions” he had to make to reach a majority vote.
In his victory speech, McCarthy promised to “never give up.” “If the son of a fireman and grandchild of immigrants can rise to the highest position in the most important legislative body in the world and if my colleague Hakeem Jeffries with his life story can rise to lead his party then opportunity and democracy still thrive in America.”
In his victory remarks, McCarthy thanked Trump for his support and “helping get those final votes.”