House Republicans elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as the next speaker of the House in a vote that went past midnight Saturday morning, ending days of holdout from a group of hardliners that brought House business to a standstill and led to the most protracted speaker vote in nearly 163 years.
McCarthy secured 216 votes on the fifteenth ballot, just clearing the threshold needed to secure a majority after he fell one vote short in the fourteenth round.
McCarthy’s six remaining GOP dissenters heading into the night all voted “present” on the fifteenth ballot, after four cast votes for other candidates on the fourteenth, which kept him from winning in the earlier round.
The “present” votes did not count toward any candidate, but effectively lowered the threshold of votes McCarthy needed for a majority from 218 to 215.
Talks among Republicans between the fourteenth and fifteenth votes became extremely intense, with Rep. Mike Rogers (Ala.) at one point being physically restrained as he confronted Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), who had the opportunity to cast the deciding vote for McCarthy in the fourteenth round but declined.
All 212 Democrats voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who became the new House minority leader.
McCarthy's bid seemed to be in some doubt heading into Friday, after he hemorrhaged support in the first three days of voting and failed to flip the support of a single member who voted against him. But that all changed on the twelfth ballot Friday afternoon, when 14 dissenters switched their votes to McCarthy. A fifteenth—Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.)—flipped on the following ballot. Many who changed their votes cited positive negotiations with McCarthy as the reason, after the speaker gave in to several key demands from his opposition, such as a "motion to vacate" that makes it easier for a speaker to be replaced mid-term. McCarthy's allies held meetings throughout the afternoon with the six holdouts remaining after the thirteenth ballot. This was the first time since 1923 that it took more than a single ballot to elect a House speaker, and the first time since early 1860 that it took more than nine. Earlier drawn out speaker battles were often over issues crucial to the very fabric of the nation, like the abolition of slavery, while the point of contention this time was over internal House rules and procedures.
House members can now be sworn in, rules can be adopted and committees can form. The House was unable to conduct any business before choosing a speaker.
Dissenters coalesced around several alternative candidates through the voting process, including Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) and Byron Donalds (R-Fla.). Of the three, only Donalds backed his own bid, before flipping to McCarthy on the twelfth ballot. Gaetz at one point gave a speech nominating former President Donald Trump for speaker and voted for him in some rounds.