McCarthy elected speaker in historic 15-round vote: What this means for the 118th Congress

Photo from the New York Times.

Nick Thompson | Contributing Writer

After days of contentious negotiations, 15 rounds of ballots and emotions constantly running high, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was finally elected as the 55th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

McCarthy’s election to the speaker’s chair marked its place in history by being the fifth-longest Speaker election and the longest one since the 17th session of Congress back in 1821. Multiple rounds of ballots were due to a handful of Republican representatives who accused McCarthy of not being conservative enough and being part of the Washington establishment.

Ultimately, McCarthy received the gavel and assumed the Speakership in the early morning hours of Jan. 7 with a final vote tally of 216-212.

In his speech, McCarthy made light of the long election process.

“That was easy, huh?” he said. “I hope one thing is clear after this week: I will never give up.”

McCarthy also struck a bipartisan tone during his speech saying that he would be willing to work with Democrats when they can find agreement. He personally ensured the new House Minority Leader, Hakeem Jefferies (D-NY), that their debates would “be passionate, but they will never be personal” in times when they disagree. The majority of his speech addressed policies such as immigration, the IRS and fiscal responsibility.

McCarthy’s election to the Speakership has received mixed reception across the political spectrum. Many Democrats have expressed concern that the drawn-out election of Speaker is a sign of further turbulence to come under McCarthy’s speakership.

“The problem is for him that, with every concession, he has to wake up every day wondering if he’s still going to have his job,” Democratic representative Richard Neal of Massachusetts said to The New York Times. “The smallest disagreement could lead to a motion from the body to remove him from the speakership.”

President Joe Biden, however, shared a more optimistic view in his press release regarding McCarthy’s election.

“As I said after the midterms, I am prepared to work with Republicans when I can and voters made clear that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well,” Biden said.  “Now that the leadership of the House of Representatives has been decided, it is time for that process to begin.”

Republican reaction to the election was also mixed.

Rep. David Valadao, a Republican from California, said that moderate Republicans were growing concerned that the concessions made to the far-right holdouts to get McCarthy elected would give them too much leverage in the new Congress.

 “Obviously we’re concerned about it,” he said to The New York Times. “I’m not thrilled with the direction it’s going.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, a key holdout, said to Fox News, “Taking four days to elect the Speaker and ensure we have a fighting force that is going to check the Biden Administration was absolutely worth it.”

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