Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) came within one solitary vote from being elected speaker of the House of Representatives in a nail-bitingly close election on Jan. 6 that ran almost until midnight in the lower chamber of the U.S. Capitol.

McCarthy needed 217. He got 216.

McCarthy’s 216 total again bested Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York who received the votes of every Democrat present in the chamber on all but one—the 12th—of the 14 votes that began a little after noon Jan. 3 when the 118th Congress convened for the day.

When the smoke cleared from the 14th ballot, six still recalcitrant members of the group originally of 20 populist conservative dissident Republicans determined to oppose McCarthy until he agreed to a lengthy list of reforms in how the House operates.

McCarthy agreed on enough to switch 14 and for two, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, to vote Present. The other four dissidents included Rep. Andy Biggs and Eli Crane, both of Arizona, Rep. Bob Good of Virginia and Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana. They voted for other candidates who weren’t nominated.

When everybody in the chamber realized at the end of the roll call that only one more vote was needed to put McCarthy into the Speaker’s seat, highly animated conversations took place as members tried to persuade Gaetz or Boebert to switch their vote.

But then Gaetz changed his mind, and agreed to vote for McCarthy and a motion to adjourn was defeated and a 15th vote was to then be taken that McCarthy is expected to win.

Speaker elections have been one-ballot affairs for the most part in recent years, so McCarthy’s inability to close the deal was a historic departure. Not since before the Civil War has the House required more than 13 ballots to pick a new speaker.

The last time more than 13 ballots were required to elect a speaker was the 36th Congress, which took 44 ballots between Dec. 5, 1859, and Feb. 1, 1860, to settle on William Pennington, a New Jersey Republican.

U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) applauds in the House chamber during the fourth day of elections for speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 6, 2023. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

During a quick news conference with journalists outside the House chamber shortly after the 13th ballot, McCarthy expressed confidence in the outcome when the House would reconvene later in the evening, saying, “This is the great part. Because it took this long, now we learned how to govern. So now we’ll be able to get the job done.”

McCarthy had succeeded in switching 13 of the 20 earlier in the day when the votes were counted for the 12th time. Members assembled at noon for the fourth day of speaking, debating, negotiating, and voting in the historic effort to name a successor to now-former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

When the 12th ballots were counted, McCarthy had 213 votes, besting for the first time Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who has received all 212 Democratic votes on every ballot. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who voted for McCarthy, received four, while Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), who also voted for McCarthy, got three votes.

McCarthy had won 200–203 votes on all of the previous ballots taken. By converting 13 of the 20 to his side, McCarthy moved tantalizingly closer to becoming House speaker.

All of the converts were significant, but especially so on Jan. 6 were House Freedom Caucus (HFC) Chairman Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), the three key leaders of the dissident group.

Other dissidents coming over on the 12th vote to McCarthy were Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-Okla.), Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas), Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), and Rep. Keith Self (R-Texas).

Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-Ind.) voted for McCarthy after voting “present” in six previous ballots.

Epoch Times Photo
Rep.-elect Chip Roy (R-Texas), Rep.-elect Mary Miller (R-Ill.), Rep.-elect Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Rep.-elect Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), and others talk to reporters in Statuary Hall during the fourth day of elections at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington on Jan. 6, 2023. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The great obstacle to resolving the contest has been the 20 dissidents demanding multiple reforms in House procedures to empower rank-and-file members and decrease the power of the speaker.

Shortly after the 12th balloting, Perry, whose HFC has been the heart of the dissident movement since last summer, told reporters outside the House chamber that he’s enthusiastic about the concessions from McCarthy and the resulting changes that will follow in how the House conducts its business.

“I trust the framework of the agreement that we have. Quite honestly, the biggest win is the overall framework of it, there’s not one singular thing. You have accountability for the most powerful person in the building. You have changes in how we’re going to spend and allocate money here that are going to be historic, we’re going to be able to finally stop the Senate from rolling us,” Perry said.

“We’re going to see more conservative representation on important committees … we’re going to deal with earmarks differently. All those things about the motion to vacate, the motion to vacate is accountability. One person should be able to make the motion, one person, but the whole body has to vote on it,” Perry continued.

“But it needs to be what Thomas Jefferson envisioned it to be because the most powerful person must be held accountable, not only to the American people, but to the purse, the members of this body,” he said.

Perry also insisted that the dissidents were not seeking concessions to benefit themselves personally, but rather to change the way the House works.

“We’re asking for things to change how this institution works, because it doesn’t work for the American people. And we just stood firm, demanded it. Now it makes it difficult for sure. Because this place operates on the status quo, the status quo serves this town, we are sick and tired of it,” he explained.

Before Friday, the dissidents had cast votes for a string of candidates, including Donalds, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rep. Ken Hern (R-Okla.), and Jordan.

And, while the members voted, McCarthy and his team, including incoming House Republican Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), engaged in intensive negotiations with Roy, Perry, Biggs, and Donalds, among the dissident group.

McCarthy made multiple concessions to the dissidents and a draft written agreement was circulated late on Jan. 5. McCarthy expressed confidence before Jan. 6’s session convened that “good progress” was being made in the negotiations. His confidence was confirmed in the 13th ballot.

Mark Tapscott

Congressional Correspondent

Congressional Correspondent for The Epoch Times.

Madalina Vasiliu

Madalina covers the U.S. Congress for The Epoch Times.

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