Republican favorite Kevin McCarthy was named speaker of the US House of Representatives on Saturday as he crushed a violent rebellion within his party’s ranks that had paralyzed the lower chamber of Congress for days.
McCarthy has always been the front-runner in leading the Republican-led House of Representatives, but his early-morning victory was nearly derailed by a right-wing revolt in his party that extended the contest to a historic 15 rounds.
The Speaker wields great influence in Washington, presiding over the affairs of the House of Representatives and second only to the Vice President in the presidency.
Accepting the gavel, McCarthy vowed that House Republicans would “pass legislation to solve the nation’s challenges, from the wide, open southern border to ‘America last’ energy policies to end indoctrination in our schools.” wake up”.
“America’s long-term challenges — the debt and the rise of the Chinese Communist Party — Congress needs to speak with one voice on both issues,” he told the House of Representatives.
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Democratic US President Joe Biden congratulated McCarthy in a statement calling for cooperation between leaders of the two parties.
“As I said after the midterms, I am willing to work with Republicans if I can, and voters have made it clear that they expect Republicans to be willing to work with me, too,” Biden said.
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Republican power struggles
McCarthy had hoped to secure the gavel in the 14th round of voting before midnight on Friday but suffered a shock setback amid stunning scenes of Republican infighting when he missed a majority by just one vote out of more than 400 votes cast.
When Matt Gaetz voted “present” to deny McCarthy the gavel, the disappointed Republican leader walked over to speak with the Florida legislature-elect in person.
Gaetz pointed the finger at McCarthy, who began to back away as Alabama’s Mike Rogers lunged at Gaetz and had to be restrained in front of his face with a pinning arm.
Watch: Kevin McCarthy confronts Matt Gaetz on the House floor over Speaker’s vote
“The selection process for ‘speakers,’ crazy as it may seem, has made everything much bigger and more important than if it were done the more conventional way,” former President Donald Trump chimed in on his platform Truth Social. a.
“Congratulations to Kevin McCarthy and our GREAT Republican Party!”
Republicans, who hold a razor-thin majority, have been locked in an internal war as Trump-backed McCarthy failed to win the speakership in multiple ballots and some 20 conservative hardliners have blocked his path since Tuesday.
But the 57-year-old California native clinched more than a dozen votes from defectors in two afternoon voting sessions on Friday after making big concessions.
McCarthy predicted he would win in the 14th round – but suffered humiliation in the face of widespread US news coverage before finally bagging his win in the 15th round.
The contradictory contest of 2023 saw more rounds of voting than any speaker election since the Civil War.
McCarthy had projected confidence all week, even as he bled votes, instead of expanding the base of some 200 Republicans who have backed him all along.
His party’s takeover of Congress is expected to herald the end of bipartisan cooperation as the legislative process has stalled and Republicans promise an aggressive agenda of probes into most aspects of Biden’s administration and his family.
Democrats and some of McCarthy’s supporters are privately concerned that he has offered his far-right critics radical political commitments that will render the House ungovernable.
There were reports, not verified by AFP, that it had agreed to keep spending at 2022 levels, including a cap on military funding that would have the same effect as a $75 billion cut.
That has raised alarms among defense hawks who are urging the United States to show strength in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an emboldened Chinese stance on Taiwan.
No single lawmaker, however senior, has the authority to set budgets, but the fact that the proposal has been taken seriously underscores Republicans’ turn toward isolationism under Trump’s leadership.
Other elected lawmakers complained that McCarthy was handing hardliners plum committee posts and changes to the rules that would severely limit the Speaker’s role.
The breakaway Republicans are understood to have flipped their votes in exchange for rule changes allowing the speaker to be ousted in a vote called by only one member.
They are also demanding an outsized role in deciding which bills land and how they are treated.
Democrats said the speaking role would be a poisoned cup, as the compromises McCarthy has made will leave him the weakest spokesman in modern history.
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