After scenes of chaos in Congress, Republican Kevin McCarthy has been elected the new US speaker after winning the 15th vote.

Mr McCarthy’s party took control of the House – the US lower house – with a slim 222-212 majority after mid-term elections in the autumn.

Normally, the election of the Speaker is seamless, formally, with the leader of the largest party being shoo-in for the job.

However, recent divisions in The Republican Party This meant that it did not happen until the 15th round of voting.

On the 14th ballot, Mr. McCarthy received 216 votes – one shy of the number needed to win – as a small faction of right-wing hardliners.

They eventually won by a margin of 216-211.

He was elected with the votes of less than half the members of the House only because five of his own party abstained – not supporting Mr McCarthy as leader, but also not voting for the other contenders.

US President Joe Biden congratulated him on his victory and said he was “ready to work with Republicans” when he could.

‘Be Civil’

After the 14th round, a tense exchange ensued, with Mr. McCarthy seen going to the back of the chamber to confront Representative Matt Gaetz, who did not vote for him.

Mr. Gaetz was one of six remaining Republican holdouts, and he voted “present” in the 14th and 15th rounds.

This basically meant that he registered that he was present in the House for a vote, but did not endorse anyone as the next speaker.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., smiles after winning the 15th vote in the House chamber as the House enters its fifth day of trying to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress, Saturday morning, Jan. 7, 2023, in Washington. doing.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Rep. Kevin McCarthy smiles after winning the vote for U.S. Speaker.

A hostile back-and-forth ensued after Mr. McCarthy approached him, as a number of Republican lawmakers began to mob him.

Representative Mike Rogers, who supported Mr. McCarthy in the vote, appeared to lunge in the direction of where Mr. Gaetz was sitting, but was held back by other members.

“Stay civil,” someone was heard shouting.

Representative Richard Hudson – another Mr McCarthy supporter – was also seen grabbing Mr Rogers by the mouth, but it was not clear what the argument was about.

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‘An absolutely extraordinary few hours’

McCarthy’s broad concessions

A handful of far-right Republicans felt Mr McCarthy was not conservative enough for the job, despite agreeing with many of the opposition’s demands.

One of the most difficult requests that Mr. McCarthy has agreed to is the restoration of a long-standing House rule that would allow a single member to vote to remove him from office.

This would sharply reduce the government’s power when trying to legislate on key issues, including financing the country’s growing debt ceiling and solving other emerging crises.

Members of the House of Representatives get physical as Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) shakes hands with Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-NC). -FL) and members of the House Freedom Caucus, including Rep. Lauren Bobert (R-CO) after Gaetz voted. "Current" Instead of voting for McCarthy late at night during the 14th round of voting for the new Speaker of the House on the fourth day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2023 in Washington.  Reuters
Members of the House of Representatives get physical as Rep. Andy Harris pushes back against Rep. Mike Rogers.

The speaker is one of the most powerful positions in American politics, and this week’s failed vote marked the largest vote for the speakership since 1859.

Sessions to decide on a candidate for the job have lasted for hours in the chamber this week – at one point for eight hours.

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