Republican Kevin McCarthy has been elected the new US speaker after winning the 15th vote as tensions run high in Congress.
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.
He eventually won on the 15th ballot 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.
“My father always told me, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he said, cheering fellow Republicans.
US President Joe Biden congratulated him on his victory and said he was “ready to work with Republicans” when he could.
However, now that the Republican Party is likely to turn the tide of the fight on behalf of the president and the Democrats, Mr. McCarthy has promised supplementary applications and investigations.
“Now the hard work begins,” Mr McCarthy said.
Four days into the ballot, stretching into the 14th round, a tense exchange ensued, with Mr. McCarthy seen walking 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.
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.
Meanwhile, in another incident, Representative Marjorie Taylor Green was seen waving around a mobile phone while making a phone call to a man saved as ‘DT’, which stands for Donald Trump.
Sharing the photo on his Twitter account, the GOP member from Georgia wrote: “That was the best phone call.”
Despite many renegade Republicans backing Mr Trump, the former president has repeatedly endorsed Mr McCarthy for speaker.
McCarthy’s broad concessions
A handful of right-wing Republicans from the conservative Freedom Caucus felt that 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.
The speakership 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, two years before the start of the American Civil War.
Sessions to decide on a candidate for the job have lasted for hours in the chamber this week – at one point for eight hours.
What does an American speaker do?
The Speaker of the House is one of the most powerful positions in American politics.
They oversee the day-to-day business and set the running order in the House of Representatives.
Using his position, an effective speaker can make or break a US president’s agenda, or if from the same party as the president, effectively stifle opposition to his policies.
Speakers are drawn from the party with the largest majority in the House, and so depending on their loyalties can help or hinder the US president.
The role was previously held by Democrat Nancy Pelosi. But after losing the House to Republicans in the recent midterm elections, the position will now change hands.
Since winning control of the House, Republicans have vowed to make the voting probe into the business dealings of US President Joe Biden and his family a top priority.
In December, a White House statement accused House Republicans of planning to go after Biden “with politically motivated attacks full of long-failed conspiracy theories.”
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