February 7, 2023

ROAD TO SPEAKERSHIP: Kevin McCarthy victory marred by GOP meltdowns

ROAD TO SPEAKERSHIP: Kevin McCarthy victory marred by GOP meltdowns

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Perhaps January 6th should officially be known as Congressional Chaos Day. It did, after all, take the House of Representatives till after midnight on the 7th to elect a speaker – after a rather raucous and at times hilarious evening.

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You might also recall an incident in Congress from that date two years ago – the small matter of when a sitting president tried to lead a coup and had his supporters storm the Capitol on January 6th.

Could it all be caused by the ghost of Charles Sumner, the anti-slavery senator whose outspoken views against the Kansas-Nebraska Act led to his being beaten within an inch of his life by Representative Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina, who had snuck into the Senate for that very purpose? Sumner was born on January 6, 1811.

(This is not a serious contention, PolitiFact – just an interesting observation.)

Well, as it turned out, there was nearly a physical confrontation yesterday as well – and it was just one of the many delightful, disturbing, and insanely hilarious moments from Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) speakership bid.

Below are some highlights.

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DT Phone Home

With McCarthy having lost the 12th and 13th rounds of voting earlier in the day, a great deal of coaxing and horse-trading was still going on.

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That’s when Al Drago of Bloomberg caught a pic of Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) trying to hand her phone to Matt Rosendale (R-MT).

On the screen, the initials “DT” — undoubtedly Donald Trump — could clearly be seen.

Rosendale waved off the call.

Trump was on and off the phone with numerous reps, including Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who was the pivotal figure last night.

McCarthy later thanked Trump, declaring that the insurrectionist former president was “all in” and that nobody “should doubt his influence.”

Basically, still kissing Trump’s ass, even as Speaker.

McCarthy Loses Round 14

Despite Trump’s best efforts, McCarthy still lost the fourteenth round of voting in dramatic fashion.

Gaetz appeared to have intentionally decided to take a bathroom break during the roll call so that he could then cast his “present” vote after everyone else. That vote meant that McCarthy only had 50% and was still one vote short of victory.

Evidently, Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who was working on lobbying Gaetz (as seen below), was not successful.

MCCARTHY WINS: Wild fight for Speaker included feuds, fiascos, and near-fisticuffs

(C-SPAN)

Confrontation

Following the fourteenth vote, McCarthy approached Gaetz, and others soon joined in.

A heated exchange seemed to take place, with Gaetz pointing directly at the hopeful speaker at times.

Lauren Boebert, sitting beside Gaetz, occasionally piped up as well.

Just as McCarthy – who had remained calm – was moving away from the conversation, Mike Rogers (R-AL) stepped up.

According to POLITICO, Rogers’s anger toward the Freedom Caucus holdouts had been growing over the past couple of days, and he was particularly enraged by a possible deal to grant Gaetz a position as head of a subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee, which Rogers will now chair.

Following McCarthy’s movements, the C-SPAN camera barely caught Rogers lunging at Gaetz.

Rogers had to be held back by Richard Hudson (R-NC).

Rogers is 64, by the way; Gaetz just 40.

MCCARTHY WINS: Wild fight for Speaker included feuds, fiascos, and near-fisticuffs

(C-SPAN)

Other members of the House looked on in shock.

(C-SPAN)

The Inimitable Katie Porter

While all of this was going down – the votes, the drama, the near-fisticuffs – Katie Porter sat nonchalantly reading Marc Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Kudos, Katie, for once again saying more by saying very little.

The Voice Vote

By this point, the Republicans were exhausted and ready to call it a day. They motioned to adjourn, but the Dems, relishing the moment and the division within the ranks of their rivals, were having none of it.

In one of the funnier moments, when the adjournment was put up for a voice vote, they shouted it down.

The Adjournment Tally

Members were supposed to get fifteen minutes to vote on adjournment after that, but things continued to go haywire.

At the last moment before time expired, the yeas beat out the nays – but then they didn’t – because all of a sudden votes began switching from yeas to nays – against adjourning.

Why? Well, it appears that McCarthy’s contingent realized after some floor discussions that they had enough people to pull it off.

CNN Flubs It, But McCarthy Still Wins

Gaetz did not vote yes, instead sticking to voting present.

But it was still enough for McCarthy, as Eli Crane (R-AZ), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Bob Good (R-VA), and Matt Rosendale (R-MT) switched their votes from an opposing candidate to “present,” lowering the threshold for victory and giving McCarthy the win.

Susan Cole Steals the Scene

(House of Representatives)

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Following those switches, Ryan Zinke (R-MT) got to vote last, and declared his ballot for “the next speaker,” McCarthy.

The Republicans erupted in applause, a line of people rising to congratulate the new speaker.

Amongst all this tumult, though, the ever-steady House reading clerk, Susan Cole, simply noted the vote with a flat-toned “McCarthy,” causing a roar of laughter – the cherry to top it all off.

Afterward, the House proceeded with the appointment of officers, an orderly matter after a rather disorderly evening.

To stay up-to-date on all the Republicans are doing wrong, follow Ross on Twitter: @RossRosenfeld

Ross Rosenfeld

is a news analysis and opinion writer whose work has also appeared in the New York Daily News and Newsweek. He lives in New York.

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