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U.S. House GOP backs McCarthy as speaker after a tense and chaotic late-night session


U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, gives a thumbs-up after being elected Speaker of the House in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 7, 2023, in Washington, D.C. After four days of voting and 15 ballots McCarthy secured enough votes to become Speaker of the House for the 118th Congress. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, gives a thumbs-up after being elected Speaker of the House in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 7, 2023, in Washington, D.C. After four days of voting and 15 ballots McCarthy secured enough votes to become Speaker of the House for the 118th Congress. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House elected Kevin McCarthy speaker early Saturday after most of the chamber’s Republicans finally gathered behind him, ending a four-day stalemate that led to the most rounds of voting for a speaker since before the Civil War.


The California Republican was able to clinch the gavel on the 15th ballot by turning many of the 20 conservative GOP lawmakers who voted against him to his side through a combination of rules changes and promises that his leadership will be different from recent House GOP speakers.


McCarthy received 216 votes to 212 for Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York, with six Republican members voting present.


The agreement and the vote allowed the 434 current members of the chamber to be sworn in for the 118th Congress. They will enable other essential steps for the House, like adopting the rules, officially forming committees, and passing bills to move forward.


McCarthy’s campaign to become the nation’s 55th speaker ran into a significant roadblock Friday just before midnight on the 14th ballot. Verbal disputes among Republicans that nearly turned physical broke out on the floor when McCarthy fell just short of gaining enough votes.

Tensions surrounding McCarthy’s efforts to clinch the gavel he’s been working towards for years led to a chaotic scene in the chamber as the California Republican walked from his seat to where Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Matt Gaetz of Florida were seated.


The two dissenters had voted present in what initially seemed like a goodwill gesture to help lower the threshold of votes McCarthy needed to become speaker without the two having to vote for him.


McCarthy and Gaetz appeared to disagree strongly, yelling at each other as North Carolina’s Patrick McHenry tried to intercede to cool tensions and work toward getting McCarthy elected, as he had been for days.


North Carolina’s Richard Hudson had to hold back Alabama’s Mike Rogers from possibly getting into a physical altercation with Gaetz in a tumultuous moment for the House Republican Conference, which has been in charge of the chamber since Tuesday.


McHenry then called for the House to adjourn until Monday at noon. Republicans initially voted for adjournment, only switching their votes at the last seconds when McCarthy cheerfully led them in moving to stay in session for the 15th and previous ballot.


The last of the Republican holdouts — Andy Biggs of Arizona, Eli Crane of Arizona, Bob Good of Virginia, and Matt Rosendale of Montana — voted present on the final ballot, lowering the threshold McCarthy needed to become speaker but not giving him their full support. Boebert and Gaetz also voted present on the last poll.

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