The suspense in the US House of Representatives on Friday night was historic. At the end of the evening, Matt Gaetz held the cards and he eventually conceded in his efforts to withhold the Speakership from Kevin McCarthy.
Gaetz joined a group of Republican House members who were not comfortable with a McCarthy speakership.
This group prevented McCarthy from winning House Speaker 13 times. Then on the 13th vote, most of the 20 voted for McCarthy with only a little more than a handful holding out.
As TGP reported, it was likely McCarthy was going to win the 14th vote which was moved to Friday night. McCarthy was betting that some Democrats would go home and he would be able to win the speakership with fewer votes than needed with the full House in place. McCarthy may have also hoped that he would get the remaining votes needed from those who opposed voting for McCarthy by that evening as well.
As the 14th vote progressed, you could see a change in McCarthy’s demeanor when Rep. Matt Gaetz didn’t vote. Suddenly you could see McCarthy come to realize that he needed Gaetz’s vote. Panic ensued. The vote concluded and McCarthy still did not have enough votes.
McCarthy walked up and talked to Gaetz to no avail and then fellow GOP Rep. Mike Rogers got upset and started shouting at Gaetz “You’re finished” and had to be restrained.
At this point, a vote was called by the McCarthy backers to adjourn for the evening. McCarthy would try to do something over the weekend to win the speakership. But suddenly Matt Gaetz got up and said something to McCarthy.
Melania Zanona at CNN reported on these events:
Finally, the House clerk announced for the 14th time that no one had the votes to be speaker. Republicans moved to adjourn the chamber until Monday. As the vote timer counted down, 218 Republicans had voted yes, a majority that would have sent McCarthy home for the weekend and left the House in paralysis at the hands of Gaetz and his allies.
But with less than a minute left to go in the vote, Gaetz moved toward the front of the chamber, grabbing a red index card to change his vote on adjournment. Gaetz walked toward McCarthy, and the two briefly exchanged words. McCarthy then raised his hand and yelled out, “One more!” as he triumphantly walked toward the front of the chamber to change his vote, too. It was the GOP leader’s final negotiation capping an emotional roller coaster over the course of four days as he was held hostage by a narrow faction of his conference. Dozens of Republicans followed McCarthy and Gaetz to defeat the adjournment measure, and McCarthy’s victory, at last, was at hand.
The six Republican holdouts all voted present on the 15th ballot, giving McCarthy a 216-212 victory to end the longest speaker’s race since 1859. Rep. Tom Emmer, one of McCarthy’s top deputies, went up and down the aisles telling Republicans on the House floor not to clap for Gaetz or Rep. Lauren Boebert when they announced their votes, like they had for other holdouts who had flipped to McCarthy earlier in the day.
Asked why he reversed course on McCarthy, Gaetz said, “I ran out of things I could even imagine to ask for.”
McCarthy expressed relief as he left the floor: “I’m glad it’s over.”
And it was. McCarthy won the speakership of the House.