After nearly a week of chaotic voting on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican Kevin McCarthy of California was elected Speaker of the House of the 118th Congress just after midnight early Saturday morning after finally securing enough votes in the 15th ballot.
The final tally was 216 votes for McCarthy and 212 votes for Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York, after 6 far-right holdouts, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), lowered the threshold to secure the speakership by voting “present” instead of registering a vote for another GOP member.
Progressive critics responded to the final vote by noting the price paid to win over the hostage-takers in the Republican conference.
“Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly put his personal ambitions ahead of our democracy,” said Sean Eldridge, president of Stand Up America, referencing the GOP leader’s membership in the “Sedition Caucus” to whom he said the new speaker had “sold his soul.”
“He voted against certifying President Biden’s victory and obstructed the investigation into the January 6 attack on our country,” Eldridge said.
Eldridge noted that over 70% of the current GOP conference in the House “are election deniers, including every single member of GOP leadership.” That fact, he said, “should be chilling to every American who cares about protecting our democracy and our freedoms.”
“This week,” said Eldridge, “McCarthy made dangerous concessions to the most fringe members of the House in exchange for their support in his effort to become Speaker. The punishment for his political cowardice will be presiding over the GOP’s conference of chaos for the next two years. Unfortunately, it’s the American people who will pay the price.”
The 15th ballot followed a dramatic 14th ballot vote in which tensions soared on the floor of the House chamber.
The nearly five-day battle for the speakership is over.