McCarthy wins speakership in 15th vote after concessions to far right

McCarthy wins speakership in 15th vote after concessions to far right

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An agreement with ultra-conservative Republicans gave the California Republican a breakthrough, but he had to fight his post during a dramatic session after midnight.

McCarthy wins speakership in 15th vote after concessions to far right. Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

By Annie Karni, New York Times Service

January 7, 2023 | 7:30 AM

WASHINGTON — Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California won early Saturday’s election as Speaker of the House in a historic five-day, 15-ballot ground fight after making major concessions to right-wing holdouts and enduring a dramatic overnight setback that underscored the limits of his power about the new Republican majority.

McCarthy carved his way to victory by completing a deal that won over a sizable contingent of ultra-conservative lawmakers on the 12th and 13th votes earlier in the day, then wore down the remaining holdouts in a tense session that dragged on through midnight and eventually having won a slim majority, after a spectacle of arm twists and grudges on the floor of the house.

The protracted struggle hinted at how difficult it would be for him to govern with an extremely slim majority and a recalcitrant far-right faction bent on cutting spending and disrupting business in Washington. The battle for the speakership, which crippled the House of Representatives before it even opened its session, suggested fundamental tasks like passing government bills or financing the federal debt would result in epic struggles over the next two years.

But McCarthy, willing to endure humiliating vote after humiliating vote and succumb to an escalating list of demands from his opponents to secure the post, denied the process predicted a malfunction.

“That’s the big part,” he told reporters. “Because it took so long, we have now learned how to govern.”

The ground fighting dragged on for nearly a week, the longest since 1859, and paralyzed the House, with lawmakers stripped of their security clearances because they could not be sworn in as official members of Congress until a speaker was elected.

Once McCarthy was elected, he should immediately set about swearing in the 434 members of the House of Representatives to officially represent the 118th Congress. Republicans announced they would wait until Monday to consider a rules package for the chamber that would include many of the compromises McCarthy made to win his post.

“What we’re seeing is the incredibly shrinking speakership, and that’s very unfortunate for Congress,” said former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as she entered the chamber Friday afternoon.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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