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On the 15th vote, Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California has finally been elected speaker of the House.
McCarthy won a majority of votes cast shortly after midnight as Friday segued into Saturday. Republicans had voted against adjourning until Monday after McCarthy fell one vote short on the 14th tally. He has been majority and minority leader in the House, but his bid to become speaker now that the Republicans again have a majority drew opposition from the extreme right wing of his party.
McCarthy won the speakership with 216 votes to Democrat Hakeem Jeffries's 212. The speaker must win a majority of votes cast; "present" votes don't count as votes cast, and six Republicans voting "present," lowering the total needed to achieve a majority. All Democrats had consistently voted for Jeffries.
The speaker is tasked with setting the House's agenda, and the House could conduct no other business in its new session until a speaker was chosen. McCarthy will succeed liberal icon Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Californian who announced she'd be retiring from Democratic leadership while continuing to serve in the House. Jeffries will be minority leader, the first Black lawmaker to have a leadership position in the body.
After the 14th vote, things got heated on the House floor. Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama lunged at another GOPer, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Rogers was restrained by other lawmakers. Also, McCarthy pointed a finger at Gaetz, something seen as a hostile gesture since Gaetz had voted present on McCarthy's nomination after being expected to possibly vote yes.
\u201cKevin McCarthy confronts Matt Gaetz during 14th House Speaker vote. #118thCongress\u201d— CSPAN (@CSPAN) 1673064623
Gaetz had consistently refused to support McCarthy and had even threatened to resign if McCarthy became speaker, but he had appeared more conciliatory earlier in the evening in an interview on Fox News. But when Gaetz and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado again voted present in the 15th round, four other Republicans who'd supported alternatives to McCarthy voted present as well, therefore lowering the threshold to a majority.
Now with Republican control, the House is expected to push a far-right agenda, as McCarthy has made concessions to his extremist opponents.