Kevin McCarthy elected US House Speaker on 15th ballot

Sunday, January 8, 2023

McCarthy listening to Representative Elise Stefanik just after becoming Speaker.
Image: C-SPAN.

In a historic vote past midnight yesterday, California Representative Kevin McCarthy was elected the 55th Speaker of the US House of Representatives on the fifteenth ballot, after making major concessions to end four days of Republican deadlock.

Addressing the House for the first time as Speaker, McCarthy promised "debates will be passionate. They will never be personal" and said: "Now the hard work begins".

On Tuesday, the first day of the 118th session, the House adjourned for the first time since 1923 without electing a speaker. Despite leading the Republicans, who won a slim majority in the midterm elections, about twenty conservatives steadfastly opposed McCarthy's leadership.

To clear the impasse, McCarthy steadily caved on major fronts, including reducing the number of representatives needed to force a 'motion to vacate', or vote of no confidence, down to one.

Ultimately, fourteen holdout Republicans either switched their votes for McCarthy or voted 'present' to abstain on the twelfth ballot, and another, Andy Harris, on the thirteenth.

A chaotic scene took place after McCarthy lost on the fourteenth ballot on one vote, despite initially predicting victory, during which his ally Mike Rogers of Alabama had to be pulled away from confronting Florida's Matt Gaetz. The near-altercation, on January 6, was exactly two years after the attack on the US Capitol.

Finally, on the fifteenth ballot, Gaetz changed his vote to 'present': ultimately, 216 Republicans voted for McCarthy, six 'present', and all 212 Democrats for their House leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Upon the vote, Republicans promptly burst into shouts of "USA! USA," while McCarthy took the oath of office.

Jeffries spoke briefly before handing the gavel to McCarthy: "Freedom over fascism. Governing over gaslighting. Hopefulness over hatred. Inclusion over isolation. Justice over judicial overreach. Knowledge over kangaroo courts. Liberty over limitation, maturity over Mar-a-Lago."

Finally, McCarthy ascended to the dais, and the House could begin swearing in new lawmakers.