McCarthy secures House Speakership on 15th vote; Arkansas delegation stays loyal

by Roby Brock ([email protected]) 508 views 

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, nominates U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to be Speaker of the House.

It took 15 rounds of voting over four days, but U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., finally secured enough votes to become Speaker of the House of Representatives for the 118th Congress. The dramatic final vote, which took place after midnight on Saturday (Jan. 7), landed McCarthy with 216 votes to 212 votes for U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-New York.

U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, gave the final nomination speech for McCarthy.

While 218 of the 435 House votes are normally needed to secure the speakership, the rules of the chamber allow a majority of the votes present to win. Republicans hold a slim 222-213 advantage over Democrats in the U.S. House. McCarthy and his supporters persuaded a block of Republicans opposed to his leadership to either vote for him or vote “present” reducing the final tally needed in the vote. The voting for House speaker was on its fourth day by early Saturday morning and the 15 rounds of voting were the fifth longest it has taken to elect a Speaker, who is third in line to the U.S. Presidency.

“I hope one thing is clear after this week: I will never give up. And I will never give up for you, the American people,” McCarthy said in his acceptance speech.

The long evening turned testy around 10 p.m. when U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, became the last vote cast in the 14th round. He voted “present” denying McCarthy the final vote needed to secure the speakership. There was a floor confrontation between the two men that resulted in finger-pointing and sharp words. U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., approached Gaetz shortly after the vote and had to be physically restrained from attacking the Florida Congressman.

Quickly after the exchange, cooler heads prevailed. A motion to adjourn was delayed and a vote deal led to the 15th round within an hour.

Details of the final concessions cut between McCarthy and the upstart GOP Freedom Caucus members that withheld support were unclear, but numerous national reports suggest agreements were made to balance the federal budget in 10 years, cap discretionary spending, reduce military spending when a debate on the debt ceiling arrives, and a variety of committee assignments and investigative initiatives of the Biden administration. Another major concession was allowing one lawmaker to begin the process of ousting the speaker.

Arkansas’ delegation remained loyal to McCarthy through all 15 rounds of voting.

U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said, “I’m pleased that we have officially elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Speaker for the 118th Congress. I can think of no one who has fought harder for the success and priorities of House Republicans these past two years. Speaker McCarthy has a plan that our conference can unite around. It’s time to get to work on behalf of the American people and secure our border, tackle inflation, and finally hold the Biden administration accountable for their failures.”

Crawford brought McCarthy to Arkansas in 2022 to raise money for GOP candidates. He is in line to potentially chair the House Agriculture Committee if Republicans hold the House in the 2024 election cycle.

U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, who gave one of the nominating speeches for McCarthy earlier in the week, said, “I am confident that, under Kevin McCarthy’s leadership, House Republicans will offer pro-growth, conservative policies in contrast to the Biden Administration’s reckless agenda. We will demonstrate to the American people that Republicans have the right ideas to unleash American energy, get our economy moving, secure our southwest border, and focus on rolling back the regulatory destruction of the Democratic party. I look forward to getting started on the work ahead this year and once again serving the Second District of Arkansas in the 118th Session of Congress.”

Westerman said he was honored to make the final floor nomination and, despite the messiness of democracy in action this last week, he believed it was good for the public.

“Regardless of your political affiliation, this exercise was a testament to the strength of our American Republic. Our government is alive, and it represents over 330 million Americans, all with differing views and needs. That variety is sometimes hard to corral into one united vision, but that isn’t a weakness, it’s an asset. Bringing disparate parts of our country together is hard, but doing the hard work is what makes America great,” he said. “Late last year, the world saw highly orchestrated images of a tightly scripted Chinese Communist Party conference. Everything there was rehearsed. Every decision was pre-determined. The entire world knew what was going to happen before the first words were spoken. That’s not who we are.

“We’re part of a living, breathing, great experiment in self-governance that is sometimes messy, sometimes loud, and sometimes makes our collective heads shake. But that experiment makes us unique, and it makes us strong. When we are forced to listen to those who disagree with us and then work together, the American people benefit. I’m proud of how Speaker McCarthy worked through our disagreements and brought us to a place of unity. I look forward to accomplishing all the goals that we set forth in the Commitment to America last year and to serving the great people of the Fourth Congressional District of Arkansas,” Westerman said.

Westerman is expected to be chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, sent a congratulatory message to McCarthy via Twitter and in a statement from his office said he was looking forward to working on behalf of the Third Congressional District.

“Congratulations to Kevin McCarthy on becoming Speaker of the House! Let’s get to work!,” he said. “My duty to the Third District is a tremendous honor and responsibility. With this oath of office comes a new Congress faced with immense challenge and consequence. I will use each vote to fight for hardworking Arkansas families and advance a future of freedom and opportunity. Strong policy and national defense, superior constituent service, and upholding the Constitution remain my targeted focus. I am forever grateful to have the confidence of Arkansans and will ensure their voices and values are heard in Washington.”