Washington, Jan 7 (EFE).- Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected the new US House Speaker after midnight on Saturday following a chaotic and lengthy campaign that included 15 rounds of voting and four days of tense negotiations for the powerful position.
McCarthy did not receive the necessary 218 votes but he managed to persuade a sufficient number of far-right Republican members to abstain after they refused to support him.
The abstention of rebel Republicans brought the required majority down by a few votes and paved the way for him to win the gavel shortly after midnight.
The win for the Californian representative came after a marathon 15 rounds of voting, making it the first time in over 100 years that it took more than one ballot to elect a speaker.
McCarthy received 216 votes, bringing an end to one of the longest-running electoral battles in the American legislature history for the top job.
Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries tallied 212 votes, with six Republican representatives voting “present.”
The GOP holds a slim majority in the House—222 Republicans compared with 212 Democrats.
Unlike the first 13 rounds, the rebel Republicans did not present any alternative candidates to McCarthy in the penultimate and the last round of the election.
At one point during the tense midnight session, McCarthy confronted ultraconservative Matt Gaetz, whose vote on the 14th ballot could have secured his win.
Gaetz, an ally of former president Donald Trump, disrupted McCarthy’s election by abstaining when the California legislator was close to victory with one vote to spare in that round.
McCarthy’s appointment ends a dramatic week in the US Capitol that began Tuesday when, for the first time in 100 years, the House speaker was not elected on the first ballot due to opposition from his party’s legislators.
Twenty of the 222 Republicans declined to support McCarthy, seeking concessions from him to give more power to the conservative critics.
The House Speaker stands just behind the vice president in the line of succession and traditionally wields enormous power over the legislative process.
But McCarthy has found himself obliged to concede some of that authority to persuade the doubters in his caucus.
After securing the top post, McCarthy said he was “glad it is over.”
He denied conceding concessions to his detractors to ensure his victory, saying it would be up to the steering committee to decide on those issues.
“No one gets promised anything,” McCarthy said.
The election of a speaker is the first order of business when the new Congress convenes.
All other House activities, including the swearing-in of members, remained on hold until the head of the chamber was elected.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden congratulated the Speaker-elect on his win.
“As I said after the midterms, I am prepared to work with Republicans when I can, and voters made clear that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well,” Biden said in a statement.
“Now that the leadership of the House of Representatives has been decided, it is time for that process to begin.”
Ex-president Trump also congratulated him.
“The ‘Speaker’ selection process, as crazy as it may seem, has made it all much bigger and more important than if done the more conventional way,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “Congratulations to Kevin McCarthy and our GREAT Republican Party.”
Trump is believed to have made some last-minute calls to McCarthy’s opponents to ensure his win. EFE