After heated exchanges that almost saw fellow Republicans come to blows, Kevin McCarthy has been elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Speaking after his confirmation, Mr. McCarthy wrote on Twitter: “I hope one thing is clear after this week: I will never give up. And I will never give up on you, the American people.”
Mr. McCarthy told reporters that former President Trump had helped him get the final votes: “I don’t think anybody should doubt his influence. He was with me from the beginning… he would call me and he would call others,” he said.
How Kevin McCarthy Emerged US Speaker
It took 15 rounds of voting for Mr. McCarthy to win the job, despite his party having a majority in the chamber. It came after a dramatic pressure campaign played out live on the House floor as party rebel Matt Gaetz was urged to vote for Mr. McCarthy. The Florida Congressman was among six holdouts who relented late on Friday.
Earlier, amid heated scenes in the chamber, Mr. Gaetz had almost come to blows with Rep Mike Rogers – a supporter of Mr. McCarthy. The Alabama congressman had to be physically restrained by colleagues as he bellowed and jabbed his finger at Mr. Gaetz.
In a remarkable turnaround in the 12th round of voting, Mr. McCarthy was able to persuade 14 Republican holdouts to cast their vote for him. A 15th rebel followed suit for the 13th ballot.
After the 13th ballot was adjourned, Mr. McCarthy insisted to reporters that he would “have the votes” to take the speakership in the next round.
But the California congressman was still three votes short of the 217 he needed to take the prized gavel, and in chaotic and dramatic scenes, he again failed to win on the 14th ballot.
The dissidents included members of the House Freedom Caucus, who argue that Mr. McCarthy is not conservative enough to lead them as they work to try to oppose Democratic President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Mr. McCarthy has offered various concessions to the rebels, including a seat on the influential rules committee, which sets the terms for debate on legislation in the chamber.
He also agreed to lower the threshold for triggering a vote on whether to unseat the Speaker, to only one House member, leading to the possibility that the Republican coalition could easily fracture again even after Mr. McCarthy’s victory.
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The Speaker sets the House agenda and oversees the legislative business. The post is second in line to the presidency after the US vice-president.