The 15th time's the charm: Kevin McCarthy finally elected US House speaker after repeated votes in chaotic week

7 January 2023, 13:29

Mr McCarthy went through 15 rounds of voting
Mr McCarthy went through 15 rounds of voting. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Will Taylor

Kevin McCarthy has finally been elected speaker of the US House of Representatives after a chaotic week of 15 votes.

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He managed to get a small group of hard right conservatives in his own Republican Party to allow him to take one of the most important jobs in American politics – despite the party having a majority in the chamber.

Six that were still holding out eventually relented.

Elections for speaker of the chamber – a very different and more prominent role than their equivalent in the British House of Commons – are not normally this arduous.

In 14 votes, he failed to get enough to secure a win as a small group of his colleagues in the Freedom Caucus, a grouping of Republican congressmen, kept blocking him.

Mr McCarthy made concessions including the reintroduction of a rule that allows any member to call a vote that could oust him from the role. He would be left weakened by that.

Read more: NFL star Damar Hamlin breathing on his own again after cardiac arrest mid-game

Mr McCarthy has finally been confirmed as speaker
Mr McCarthy has finally been confirmed as speaker. Picture: Alamy

No candidate for the speaker's seat has been put through so many rounds of voting since the Civil War era.

Tempers were on full display after Mr McCarthy fell one vote short in the 14th ballot.

He went to confront Matt Gaetz, a member of the caucus, and at one point another Republican, Mike Rogers, began to charge to Mr Gaetz before Richard Hudson pulled him back.

One holdout, Republican Scott Perry, who chairs the Freedom Caucus, announced he would switch his support to Mr McCarthy.

Read more: Child, 6, 'deliberately' shoots teacher and leaves her in life-threatening condition

Mr Gaetz was confronted about his holding out
Mr Gaetz was confronted about his holding out. Picture: Getty

"We're at a turning point," he tweeted, to some relief of Republicans embarrassed by the four days of chaos that comes just weeks after it narrowly took control of the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections, in which Joe Biden's Democrats performed markedly better than anticipated.

Bryon Donalds, of Florida, who was put forward as the alternative candidate for speaker, switched on Friday too.

Donald Trump is said to have played a part in convincing the holdouts to switch.

With the 15th round of voting called, some of the holdouts began to vote, which paved the way to Mr McCarthy finally being confirmed as speaker.

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