McCarthy elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives

McCarthy elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives

Nfter four days and a total of fifteen ballots, the American House of Representatives elected Kevin McCarthy as its 55th speaker on Saturday night. The Republican won the vote for the third highest office in the United States by a majority of 216 votes. After three days of McCarthy’s failure to break the blockade by a group of right-wing dissenters, the tide turned on Friday. In the penultimate vote, only four critics spoke out against McCarthy, in the last round of voting there were no dissenting votes. Six opponents of the faction leader abstained, making his victory possible. With 428 votes cast, a majority of 215 votes would have been sufficient. As recently as Thursday, only 200 Republicans voted in favor of McCarthy.

Sofia Dreisbach

North American political correspondent based in Washington.

Since Tuesday’s first session of Congress, a group of twenty dissidents from the party’s right-wing fringe had opposed McCarthy, 57. The faction leader finally managed to change the majority of them with far-reaching concessions on Friday. The six Republicans who abstained were Arizona’s Andy Biggs, Colorado’s Lauren Boebert, Arizona’s newly elected Rep. Eli Crane, Florida’s Matt Gaetz, Virginia’s Bob Good, and Montana’s Matt Rosendale. Democrat Hakeem Jeffries again received all 212 votes in his group in the fifteenth round of voting.

With McCarthy’s election as the 55th speaker, the House of Representatives can now begin its work after four days. Only now can the deputies be sworn in. Even before the vote on Friday, the parliamentary group leader had shown optimism that the blockade would come to an end. It’s not about how you started, it’s about how you finish something. “And now we have to finish it for the American people.” McCarthy’s election as leader will go down as one of the longest votes in American history. The last time it took several attempts a hundred years ago to choose a spokesman – at that time, however, only nine. The last time there were longer election processes before the civil war.

Heated exchanges between McCarthy and Gaetz

Before the last round of elections, there was a heated exchange between McCarthy and his critic Gaetz. The faction leader approached the Florida MP and asked him what he needed to do to get his vote. Immediately before the vote, Gaetz said McCarthy would not get enough votes, “not today, not tomorrow, not next week, next month or next year”. So you have to ask yourself whether he is doing all this “out of pure vanity”. McCarthy’s behavior is an avoidable “imposition” on the House of Representatives. Under pressure from his party friends, Gaetz finally decided to abstain. According to media reports, he and Boebert received a call from Donald Trump after voting against in the penultimate round of elections. He had called for McCarthy’s election and warned of an “embarrassing defeat”. During a break in the meeting on Friday, Gaetz had spoken appreciatively of McCarthy’s concessions. He responded “very thoroughly” to the group’s demands. “We’re starting to have nothing left to ask for.”

To win over critics, McCarthy has promised them committee seats and made sweeping concessions on rule changes, including those that weaken his position as speaker. The Republican agreed to the demand that one vote would be sufficient for a vote of no confidence against him in the future. McCarthy originally said five votes was the absolute maximum he could accept. The number of votes required had been increased in recent years to prevent individual members of Congress from exerting disproportionate pressure on the Speaker.

In addition, the faction leader has promised the group more influence on legislation. On the one hand, they are allowed to fill two out of nine positions in the so-called Rules Committee, which determines the rules of procedure. Every bill goes through the hands of the MPs on this committee. McCarthy is said to have promised that MPs outside of the party leadership and committees will have more influence on the legislative processes in the future. The dissenters had criticized the fact that spending laws in particular are now negotiated behind closed doors and passed at short notice without lengthy debate.

McCarthy also responded to right-wing calls for a commitment to specific limits on federal spending. For example, an increase in the debt they criticize should always be linked to a budget cut elsewhere – a regulation that more moderate Republicans criticize because they fear massive cuts in defense spending. If the House of Representatives fails to agree on a spending bill, the government is threatened with shutdown. McCarthy also agreed to hold a vote on MP term limits and specific border policy legislation.

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