The vote capped four days of a grueling standoff between the California Republican and a group of 20 or so holdouts within his conference. McCarthy was able to flip 15 of them earlier in the day, leaving him just shy of the gavel in in the 12th and 13th ballots.
The House adjourned in the afternoon and returned later in the night for the 14th attempt, which McCarthy still lost even after two more holdouts — Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert — voted “present” to lower the tally he would need to win. Four others voted against him, resulting in a 216-216 tie with Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries.
Tensions rose when McCarthy walked to the back of the chamber to talk to Gaetz, who pointed a finger and exchanged words with someone next to McCarthy. At one point, Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama started to charge at Gaetz before he was pulled back by another member.
Seemingly frustrated and tired, the House was then on the cusp of adjourning for the weekend before Republicans finalized a plan that would deliver McCarthy the speakership. The six remaining holdouts who were unswayed by McCarthy’s concessions offered throughout the week all voted present, giving him a 216-212 win over Jeffries.
The stunning turnaround Friday came after McCarthy agreed to many of the detractors’ demands — including the reinstatement of a longstanding House rule that would allow any single member to call a vote to oust him from office.
House Republicans as an entire bloc held a conference call Friday morning with McCarthy to discuss the possible deal and concessions that McCarthy has made with the group of 20 or so holdouts who have been blocking his path to speaker, NewsNation confirmed.
Two sources on the House GOP conference call had said there was movement when a “tentative agreement” was met between McCarthy and Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, who acted as the negotiator between McCarthy and the holdouts. McCarthy said on the call that “good progress is being made,” the sources said.
During the meeting, multiple members, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., made the point that President Joe Biden is going on the offensive in relation to perceived GOP dysfunction, saying Republicans can’t let that happen anymore.
Also, McCarthy asked his own supporters not to be upset with Roy and Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., because they are working in good faith on a deal, sources said.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., also urged members to unite on the speaker vote for McCarthy so the conference can work toward moving on to their agenda: the border, ending the “pandemic emergency” and general government reform.
The week saw several other Republicans nominated, including Donalds. After voting for McCarthy in the first round of voting Tuesday, Donalds switched his selection and received more than a dozen votes in several rounds of voting.
One of the main demands of McCarthy’s opponents was lowering the threshold to call for his removal to just one member. McCarthy had countered with five members, fearing any lower number could enable the scenario to happen again.
“How would you like to do this every week?” Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said of the voting drama on the House floor. “I think that’s the future with a few of these individuals.”
The offer McCarthy presented to the holdouts from the conservative Freedom Caucus and others center around rule changes they have been seeking for months. Those changes would shrink the power of the speaker’s office and give rank-and-file lawmakers more influence in drafting and passing legislation.
Even though McCarthy secured the votes he needed, he will likely emerge as a weakened speaker, having given away some powers and leaving him constantly under threat of being voted out by his detractors. But he could also be potentially emboldened as a survivor of one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in U.S. history.
At the core of the negotiated deal is the reinstatement of a House rule that would allow a single lawmaker to make a motion to “vacate the chair,” essentially calling a vote to oust the speaker. McCarthy had resisted allowing it, because it had been held over the head of past Republican Speaker John Boehner, chasing him to early retirement.