Kevin McCarthy secures the speakership of the House of Representatives in the 15th round of voting

Kevin McCarthy secures the speakership of the House of Representatives in the 15th round of voting

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Kevin McCarthy was elected speaker of the House of Representatives, ending a tortuous week of back-and-forth on Capitol Hill that exposed sharp divisions in the Republican Party and raised new questions about whether Congress can rule effectively in the years to come.

McCarthy was elected speaker just after midnight Saturday, with all but six Republicans supporting his candidacy. The six opposing Republicans voted “present” — a formality that reduced the critical number of votes McCarthy needed to seize the speaker’s gavel.

It was the 15th ballot since the election process for a speaker began on Tuesday. McCarthy is the first speaker in a century to require more than one ballot to vote.

“That was easy, huh? I never thought we’d come up here,” McCarthy said with a laugh as he accepted the speaker’s gavel from Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

“That’s not how you start, that’s how you end. And now we must finish strong for the American people,” McCarthy added.

The California congressman defied his critics when, after seemingly endless rounds of negotiations and concessions, he quashed enough opposition within his own party to receive the Speaker’s gavel. Earlier in the night, McCarthy suffered a humiliating defeat when he narrowly lost the 14th ballot.

McCarthy seemed visibly upset by this result and in a last-ditch effort went to Florida’s Matt Gaetz and Colorado’s Lauren Boebert to try and get them to change their votes from “present.” Mike Rogers, an Alabama congressman, appeared to pounce on Gaetz before being held back by another lawmaker.

McCarthy insisted the arduous process had united his party and would make them more effective in legislating in the months and years to come. But many in Washington questioned whether he had weakened his own hand and left himself in an extremely vulnerable position at the start of a new Congress.

One of McCarthy’s key concessions was the adoption of a rule that would allow any individual member of Congress to trigger a vote of no confidence in him or any prospective speaker.

Following early Saturday’s vote, US President Joe Biden released a statement congratulating McCarthy on his election as Speaker, but warning him that “the American people expect their leaders to govern with their needs above all else.” others will be asked and that is what we must do now”.

Biden said he was willing to work with Republicans on legislation but also to draw some red lines. “It is imperative that we continue. . . economic progress, not set back,” he said. “It’s imperative that we protect Social Security and Medicare, not cut them. It is imperative that we defend our national security, not weaken it. These are some of the decisions that lie ahead of us.”

McCarthy addressed Jeffries and Democrats directly in his Saturday morning speech, saying, “I promise our debates will be passionate, but they will never be personal. That is my obligation to you.”

McCarthy faced an uphill battle to become Speaker in large part because the Republican “red wave” he and others had predicted did not materialize in the November midterm elections. Instead, Republicans won a razor-thin majority in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress, and failed to regain control of the Senate, the upper chamber.

McCarthy was elected speaker on the two-year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol that disrupted the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential election and killed several people.

On Friday afternoon, Biden held an anniversary ceremony at the White House and presented a Presidential Citizens’ Medal to several people, including state officials who opposed former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the election results and families of deceased Capitol police officers.

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