(Editor’s note: On Mon., Jan. 9, House rules were set by the Republican majority, and Republicans promptly rescinded the 87,000 IRS agents that had been approved via the bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act that provided $80 billion for the hiring as written in section 1030 of the bill, thus fulfilling McCarthy’s pledge made during his acceptance speech on Jan. 7).
Following a contentious four days of infighting for power in the Republican Party that resulted in 15 ballots being cast for speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy received his gavel.
He follows Nancy Pelosi who was present to see House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries from New York hand McCarthy the gavel she had used while the Democrats held a majority.
Jeffries made an impassioned speech during which he took a political shot across the bow at former President Donald J. Trump by referencing Mara Largo and Jan. 6th, before handing over the coveted gavel to McCarthy, a known political adversary of Pelosi who is a fellow Californian.
During the first 14 ballots, McCarthy failed to receive the necessary majority to receive the gavel, but during the 15th ballot, four Republicans switched their votes from other members they supported on the 14th ballot in order to join two other Republicans who had voted present.
Their action of voting present lowered the threshold to elect from 218 votes needed on the 14th ballot to 2015 needed on the 15th ballot. McCarthy had fallen short by only one vote on the 14th ballot at 217.
The actual winning vote occurred just after 1:00 a.m. on Jan. 7, the official time that McCarthy was elected (although it was still Jan. 6, in Calif.), and the vote would not have been taken had a previous motion passed to adjourn until Monday, Jan 9.
After the vote to adjourn failed, four Republicans changed their votes from favoring Jim Jordan and Andy Biggs, who each received two votes on the 14th ballot, to voting present.
The 15th ballot marathon was the first time since 1856 when Nathaniel Banks of Mass. was elected 103-100 on the 133rd ballot during the 34th Congress over William Aiken of S.C. that the U.S. House of Representatives had taken more than nine ballots to elect its speaker.
Considering that it was in 1923 that the U.S. House of Representatives had taken more than one vote to elect its speaker, McCarthy’s epic struggle to convince 20 members of the Freedom Caucus that he was the man for the job provided live TV with high drama, leading one reporter to quip that the struggle was better than watching a football game.
After receiving the gavel, McCarthy extended an olive branch to Jeffries by saying that he may disagree with him on issues moving forward but that their differences would never be personal.
Pelosi and McCarthy have been on thin ice politically for a long time, especially after McCarthy quipped to a Nashville TV reporter in July of 2021 that it would be hard not to hit Pelosi with the gavel once he received it.
Pelosi was the only Speaker in the history of the U.S. House of Representatives to rip apart a copy of a President’s “State of the Union Speech.” In 2020, she tore apart a copy of President Trump’s while being televised nationally.
Now that McCarthy has his gavel in hand, it appears that he will have to walk a political tightrope to hold onto his gavel because of concessions that he made with members of the Freedom Caucus, one being to reduce the number to one member who can call for his removal.
McCarthy has a similar Republican majority to work with that Pelosi had, but Pelosi had both the U.S. Senate and the White House to support her agenda while McCarthy has only the U.S. House of Representatives to guide.
However, the power of the purse is now in the hands of the Republican House, and during his acceptance speech, McCarthy proclaimed that one of the first actions on the Republican agenda will be to rescind the Democrats’ hiring of thousands of IRS agents.
McCarthy, despite his reduced power via the concessions he made to members of the Freedom Caucus (54 strong in 2022) to receive the gavel, has the power to appoint Republicans to head committees and to remove members, including Democrats, from committees on which he deems members are unworthy to serve.