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Kevin McCarthy wins speakership after historic House fight

By Primenewsghana
Kevin McCarthy
Kevin McCarthy
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The Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was elected as speaker of the US House of Representatives in a dramatic late-night vote, after quelling a days-long revolt from a bloc of far-right conservatives to finally capture the gavel on a historic 15th attempt.

After 14 consecutive defeats and a string of concessions, McCarthy earned enough votes to became the nation’s 55th speaker, winning 216 votes with 6 Republicans voting present. House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries once again secured the support of all 212 members of his caucus.

McCarthy’s long-sought victory comes after a protracted speakership battle, the longest since 1859, that paralyzed the new Congress and exposed deep rifts within the House Republican conference. The conflict marked the first time in a century that the House failed to choose a speaker on the first ballot, and only four other speakership elections in US history have required more than 12 votes.

McCarthy celebrated his victory as a sign of a reinvigorated House Republican conference, despite the hurdles he faced in his quest to become speaker.

House Democrats remained unified in supporting Jeffries, a congressman from New York, until the last ballot. Marking the end of four years of Democratic control of the House, Jeffries congratulated McCarthy on his victory as he looked ahead to the future work of the 118th Congress.

“It’s been a long week,” Republican congressman Patrick McHenry conceded at the start of his speech nominating McCarthy for the speakership. “The president has called this process an embarrassment. Talking heads labeled this a chaos and a mess. And some would call it shambolic, even. But it’s called democracy.”

But the final hours of the speakership fight were not without drama. McCarthy had hoped to win the gavel on the 14th ballot, but he fell one vote short. When it became clear that McCarthy would not succeed, tensions erupted on the House floor. At one point, congressman Mike Rogers, a Republican of Alabama, had to be physically restrained after appearing to lunge at congressman Matt Gaetz, a Florida of Republican and a leader of the anti-McCarthy coalition.

In the face of an entrenched opposition, McHenry moved to adjourn the chamber until Monday. But the negotiations abruptly shifted in McCarthy’s favor, and Republicans quickly scuttled their plans and called for a 15th vote.

“I rise to say, wow,” congressman Dean Phillips, a Democrat of Minnesota said, nominating Jeffries after the dramatic 14th ballot left McCarthy one vote shy of the speakership.

On the 15th roll call vote, several hold outs changed their votes to “present”, thereby lowering the threshold McCarthy needed to secure the gavel.

In a frenzied effort to end the intra-party stalemate, McCarthy and his allies spent days locked in late-night negotiations with the 20 hardline conservatives who opposed him on the first 11 ballots. Because of House Republicans’ narrow majority, McCarthy could only afford to lose four votes if all sitting members cast a ballot for speaker. In exchange for their support, the holdout members demanded sweeping changes to chamber rules, as well as more representation on some of the most high-profile House committees.

After rounds of fruitless balloting, McCarthy’s prospects brightened when the chamber reconvened on Friday. In quick succession, he converted 15 of the Republican defectors. Among them was Congressman Scott Perry, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus and a leader of the far-right rebellion, who said the camps had reached “the framework for an agreement” on many of the group’s demands.

Following an unsuccessful 12th and 13th ballot on Friday, Republicans voted to adjourn until later that evening, with only six Republicans still opposed to McCarthy’s candidacy. McCarthy used that time to ​lobby the ​half-dozen remaining​ holdouts​, eventually finding a way to break the impasse. Without votes to spare, the delay also allowed two McCarthy’s allies, Ken Buck of Colorado and Wesley Hunt of Texas, time to return Washington to cast ballots for him.

Buck had missed earlier votes for health reasons, while Hunt was absent to be with his wife and newly born son. When Hunt and Buck cast their votes Friday night, Republicans applauded for them.

When the House returned late Friday evening, the mood among Republicans was jovial and McCarthy was buoyant. Even the House Chaplin, Margaret Kibben, whose prayers had become increasingly pointed, opened the session with a smile: “Dear God, we may be, at last, standing at the threshold of a new Congress.”

Although McCarthy has successfully won the speakership, he now faces the considerable challenge of attempting to govern with an unruly conference and a slim majority. The dynamics of the House Republican conference could make it much more difficult to advance must-pass legislation, such as a government spending package or a debt ceiling hike.

The rule changes requested by McCarthy’s former detractors could also complicate his tenure as speaker. The anti-McCarthy coalition proposed a policy allowing a single member to call for a vote on ousting the sitting speaker. That rule could allow McCarthy’s more skeptical supporters to remove him from his role if they clash over policy in the future, and the threat of such a maneuver will hang over the head of any sitting speaker.

Over the past four years, McCarthy has managed to maintain his position as House Republican leader in part by striving to keep the peace with far-right members of his conference. The impact of that strategy was reflected in the lengthy debate over the speakership. One of the most vocal supporters of McCarthy’s campaign for speaker was congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican who was removed from her committee assignments over her extremist views.

As McCarthy ascends to the speakership, time will tell whether his concessions to far-right members will be enough to keep him in charge. If not, another fight for the gavel could soon be on the horizon.

Source: the guardian