Late Friday night, on the 15th attempt, Kevin McCarthy finally got enough votes to be elected Speaker. He still did not get the 218 absolute majority that he needed in the reduced 434-member body (one Democratic member being deceased and not yet replaced) because 212 members voted fro Democrat Hakeem Jeffries again and there were six members in his 222-member caucus who refused to vote for him. But he did manage to get the six to merely vote present, which took them out of the calculus. This meant that he needed a majority of the remaining 428 members and he squeaked by with 216 or, as Trump would describe it, “by a landslide that some people are calling the biggest landslide ever”. Of course, the ever-toadying McCarthy thanked Trump for his support though it appeared that the renegades ignored Trump’s repeated pleas to switch their votes.
It appeared that he had thought that he would get the required number on the 14th vote but that fell short by just one vote. That led to extraordinary scenes where McCarthy walked to the back of the chamber to confront Matt Gaetz so one presumes that McCarthy thought that Gaetz had reneged at the last minute on some agreement. At one point another congressman Mike Rogers appeared to lunge at Gaetz and had to be visibly held back another member who placed a hand over his mouth.
The six people who finally switched their votes from ‘no’ to ‘present’ were Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Andy Biggs, Eli Crane, Bob Good, and Matt Rosendale. I list all their names because it will be interesting to see what will happen to them as well as the other 14 members who had originally opposed McCarthy until they switched on the 13th ballot. Will they be rewarded with plum committee assignments as part of the deal for their switch or will they be sent to Siberia for their recalcitrance that led to this humiliating spectacle? In fact, the almost-fight between Rogers and Gaetz may have been over just such committee assignments.
Several GOP members said they believed the animosity between Rogers and Gaetz reached a boiling point over talk that GOP leadership might offer Gaetz the chairmanship of a House Armed Services subcommittee. Rogers, who is set to lead that panel, had grown increasingly angry at the holdouts during the week, and he had initially threatened to try to strip anti-McCarthy members of committee assignments.
It didn’t help that Gaetz told Rep. Illhan Omar (D-Minn.) on the House floor the day before that the holdouts had gotten everything they wanted from leadership, but were still voting against McCarthy, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
Gaetz appeared to revel in the drama. He left the chamber and headed to the restroom right before his name was first called during the roll call. That meant when he returned, he would cast one of the final votes — and McCarthy’s fate would come down to him.
We will know better in the next couple of weeks over what deals were struck as McCarthy and the Republican leadership allocate committee assignments.
Fox News has struggled to put the best face on this debacle. Initially, they said the lack of votes for McCarthy was a sign that the GOP was a healthy party that embraced democracy and a diversity of views unlike the Democrats whom they described as sheep who voted in lockstep behind their leader. But as the process dragged on that explanation started to wear thin and even Sean Hannity seemed to get exasperated with Lauren Boebert, one of the die-hard renegades, for her lack of any specific plan for how to end the stalemate.
Thanks to this drama, we have been getting a good look at how the House of Representatives functions and it ain’t pretty.