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Politics & Policy

McCarthy narrowly secures speaker bid after days-long struggle

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks at a Statue Dedication Ceremony for President Harry S. Truman in the Capitol Rotunda on Sept. 29, 2022, in Washington, D.C. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Rep. Kevin McCarthy's tedious quest to become speaker of the House of Representatives finally came to fruition as a handful of Republican holdouts voted "present" in a 15th round of voting late Friday.

House members applauded as McCarthy appeared to narrowly secure the majority needed to win the speaker position. In the 15th round of voting, McCarthy won 216 votes while five members voted "present," lowering the majority threshold needed to secure victory in the chamber.

McCarthy's historically difficult bid was stymied by a faction of about 20 far-right Republicans centered on the House Freedom Caucus. But the tides began to change on Friday as members of the faction changed course: The chair of that caucus, Rep. Scott Perry, switched his vote to McCarthy on Friday and tweeted: “We’re at a turning point.”

McCarthy offered those far-right holdouts a deal in order to win their votes, according to the Associated Press. It includes rules changes that would shrink the power of the speaker and give rank-and-file lawmakers more sway in drafting legislation. Other provisions include potentially expanding the number of seats on the House Rules Committee, which plays an important role in vetting legislation.

The votes weren't without drama. During the 14th round of voting, McCarthy confronted Rep. Matt Gaetz, one of the ringleaders of his opposition, and the two argued on the House floor after Gaetz voted "present" instead of "yes" for McCarthy's bid.

The days-long stalemate ground key government business to a halt, as the House of Representatives may not swear in new members or take up new legislation until a speaker is elected.

Annie Gaus can be reached at