Kevin McCarthy becomes House speaker of the 118th Congress

 January 7, 2023

It took a week and a historic 15 tries, but Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) finally mustered enough support to become the House speaker for the 118th Congress. 

According to Breitbart, the final vote came about in the wake of extreme tensions on the House floor -- at one point so extreme that some members of the Republican caucus nearly got physically violent with one another.

Breitbart noted: "McCarthy received 216 votes, House Democrat Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) received 212 votes, and six Republican members voted 'present.'"

It has been an astonishing 163 years since a vote to determine the speaker took 15 rounds of ballots being cast. It was the first time in 100 years that a speaker wasn't chosen on the first vote.

What happened?

McCarthy had the overwhelming support of the Republican side of the House, however, a handful of detractors, including high-profile members like Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) held out and nominated protest candidates.

Many of the Republican lawmakers who held up McCarthy's nomination, which many had predicted would be much quicker than it was, were members of the House Freedom Caucus.

The goal, in part, Breitbart noted, was to shift some of the extreme power away from House leadership and transfer it back to the non-leadership members.

Breitbart added: "Their asks included, among many items, bringing the motion to vacate down to a one-member threshold and putting more members of the Freedom Caucus on the Rules Committee, as well as budgetary provisions and vows to bring votes on certain legislation to the floor."

Questions arise

In the dissenting Republican members' quest to transfer some of the power to the rank-and-file lawmakers, some, according to The Hill, believe the move could disrupt normal government.

The outlet noted: "One change in particular — which empowers a single lawmaker to launch the process of ousting the Speaker — is giving heartburn to lawmakers in both parties, who fear a hard-line group of conservatives will use it repeatedly to browbeat McCarthy into keeping crucial must-pass bills off the floor."

Given what has happened in Congress over the past seven years or so, it's not out of the question that wild outcomes could be in America's future with such rule changes.

"If one person can push a motion to vacate, we’ll do this again. How would you like to do this every week?” Republican Don Bacon of Nebraska said. "I think that’s the future with a few of these individuals. … It weakens the Speaker, and it strengthens the smallest caucus of all the caucuses."

He added that he believes the strategy was a "terrible decision."

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