Kevin McCarthy won his bid for chairman of the House after a grueling 15-vote battle

The California Republican was able to woo detractors of his staunch right after a week of negotiations and concessions

Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was elected chairman of the US House of Representatives in a dramatic late night vote, after quelling days of rebellion from the right-wing conservative bloc to finally grab the hammer at a historic 15th attempt.

McCarthy's rise to speakership comes after 14 defeats and a series of concessions to ultraconservative MPs that will significantly weaken his hold while strengthening their influence over the party's new House majority. After winning most of his earlier losses Friday, McCarthy survived a shock loss on the 14th ballot of the night and finally grabbed the hammer in the next round with the slimmest majority, just 216 votes, in the early hours of Saturday morning.

The spectacle ends in stunning fashion during a tense late night session on the DPR floor that erupts with shouts and finger pointing. A Republican lawmaker must be physically restrained by a colleague. But the speaker's fierce battle, the longest since 1859, ended shortly thereafter, when the last remaining defenders switched their votes to "present", lowering the threshold and allowing McCarthy to secure the post.

The final tally was 216-212 with the Democrats picking their leader Hakeem Jeffries, and six Republicans to win McCarthy's ballot.

A beaming McCarthy hugs the members of her leadership team and allies who stood by her throughout the all-day saga. Cheers broke out in the room and kitchen above, where family members watched the voting take place. Climbing onto the speaker's rostrum, he raised his gavel and hit it twice hard. "That's easy, huh?" he said, inviting laughter.

“My dad always told me, it's not how you start, it's how you finish,” McCarthy continued, stating, “Now, the hard work begins.”

House Democrats remained united behind Jeffries, a congressman from New York, until the final ballot. Marking a "transition moment" after four years of Democrats controlling the House, Jeffries said Democrats would seek to work with Republicans where possible, but vowed to always put "American values above autocracy."

Joe Biden congratulated McCarthy on winning the speaker's post and urged a new House majority for Republicans who want to challenge his administration with long-promised subpoenas and investigations to "govern responsibly."

The protracted battle crippled the new Congress and exposed a deep rift within the Republican House conference that foreshadowed a difficult two years ahead for the newly elected speaker. The conflict marks the first time in a century that the House of Representatives has failed to select a speaker on the first ballot, and only four other elections for speaker of the House in US history have required more than 12 votes.

"It's been a long week," Republican congressman Patrick McHenry said at the start of his speech nominating McCarthy as speaker. “The president called this process shameful. Talking heads call this chaos and chaos. And some would call it messy, even. But that's called democracy."

When McCarthy finished speaking, he moved quickly to swear the oath of membership and officially open the 118th Congress in the hours after midnight. Among them was George Santos, the New York Republican, who faced multiple federal and local investigations and calls to resign after it was revealed he had repeatedly lied about aspects of his background during his election campaign.

Plans to select a new package of rules that includes many of the demands from McCarthy's opponents, were postponed until next week.

McCarthy had hoped to win the hammer on the 14th ballot, but he was one vote short. When it became clear that McCarthy was not going to make it, tensions erupted on the House floor.

McCarthy stepped to the back of the room to confront congressmen Matt Gaetz, of Florida and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, leaders of the anti-McCarthy coalition. At one point, congressman Mike Rogers, a Republican from Alabama, had to be physically restrained after appearing to assault Gaetz and a member shouting: "stay civilized."

Faced with entrenched opposition, McHenry decided to adjourn the trial until Monday. But negotiations suddenly turned in McCarthy's favor, and Republicans quickly abandoned their plans and called for a 15th vote.

"I got up to say, wow," said congressman Dean Phillips, a Democrat from Minnesota, reacting to the drama when he nominated Jeffries as speaker on the 15th ballot.

In a frantic attempt to end the intra-party stalemate, McCarthy and his allies spent days locked in late-night negotiations with the 20 hardline conservatives who opposed him in the first 11 votes. Due to the slim majority of House Republicans, McCarthy could only afford to lose four votes if all sitting members voted for the speaker. In return for their support, the surviving members are demanding sweeping changes to chamber rules, as well as more representation on some of the House's most high-profile committees.

After a fruitless round of voting, McCarthy's prospects are bright when the assembly reconvenes on Friday. In quick succession, he converted 15 Republican defectors. Among them was Congressman Scott Perry, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and leader of the right-wing insurgency, who said the camps had reached a "framework agreement" on many of the group's demands.

Following a failed 12th and 13th ballot on Friday, Republicans voted to postpone until later that evening, with only six Republicans still opposing McCarthy's candidacy. McCarthy used the time to lobby for the remaining half dozen detentions, eventually finding a way to break the deadlock. With no votes remaining, the delay also allowed two of McCarthy's allies, Ken Buck of Colorado and Wesley Hunt of Texas, time to get back Washington to vote for him.

Buck missed the previous vote due to health reasons, while Hunt was absent to accompany his wife and newborn son. When Hunt and Buck cast their votes Friday night, Republicans applauded them.

When the House returned late Friday night, the mood between the Republicans was jovial and McCarthy was excited. Even House Chaplin, Margaret Kibben, whose prayers were getting more fervent, opened the session with a smile: “My God, we may, at last, be standing on the threshold of a new Congress.”

Although McCarthy has had success winning speakers, she now faces a sizable challenge trying to govern with an unruly conference and a slim majority. The dynamics of House Republican conferences can make it difficult to advance legislation that needs to be passed, such as a government spending package or a debt ceiling increase.

The rule changes called for by McCarthy's former detractors could also complicate his tenure as speaker. To gain their support, McCarthy agreed to reinstate the policy of allowing one member to request a vote to remove a sitting speaker. The rule could allow McCarthy's more skeptical supporters to remove him from the role if they clash over policy in the future, and the threat of such maneuvers will hang over the heads of every seated speaker.

Over the past four years, McCarthy has successfully maintained his position as leader of the Republican Party in part by trying to keep the peace with members of his conference's far-right. The impact of that strategy is reflected in long debates over speakers.

One of the most vocal supporters of McCarthy's campaign to become speaker was congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who was removed from her committee duties for her extremist views. Moments after McCarthy secured the speaker, Greene rushed forward to take a selfie with him on the DPR floor.

As McCarthy rises to speaker position, time will tell whether his concessions to members of the far right will be enough to keep him in control. If not, another fight for the hammer could soon ensue.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said he was concerned McCarthy's concessions to the right wing of his party risked making the lower house ungovernable, and could lead to a government shutdown or debt default. "Speaker Kevin McCarthy's dream job could turn into a nightmare for the American people," Schumer said.

The Democratic-controlled Senate will stifle House Republicans' legislative ambitions. But in his remarks, McCarthy vowed to use "wallet power" and "subpoena power" to press the conservative agenda that Republicans hope will help usher them into the White House and Congress in 2024. Among the House's first acts will be a vote to repeal funding for the Internal Revenue Service and a hearing on the southern border, McCarthy said, pledging to "hold Swamp accountable — from withdrawing from Afghanistan to the origins of Covid to arming the FBI."

“It is evening here in Washington,” McCarthy said in remarks from the rostrum, “but in some ways it is also a new beginning – a new beginning.”

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