Republican leader Kevin McCarthy was sworn in as Speaker of the House of Representatives Saturday morning, ending a divisive week of infighting and formally handing control of the House to the GOP.
A split in the party turned what is normally a tedious proceeding into a historic deadlock, with 20 hardline Republican lawmakers stalling the process in a combined effort to thwart McCarthy’s nomination and squeeze concessions from a leader they consider too consider establishment-friendly.
Who is Kevin McCarthy anyway?McCarthy has represented his California district since 2007 and has served nine terms. A close ally of the fiscal conservative Paul Ryan – who served as speaker between 2015 and 2019 – he has been moving in the party’s top circles for nearly a decade. majority leader from 2014 to 2019, and minority leader from 2019 to present.
McCarthy was an early supporter of former President Donald Trump, supporting him on most issues during his presidency. However, he distanced himself from Trump’s claims of fraud after the 2020 election. The two subsequently reconciled and Trump approved his bid for speaker.
Why did it take so long?Republicans hold a 222-213 seat majority in the House, which would be enough for McCarthy to comfortably win the speakership under normal circumstances. However, it took 15 rounds of voting before he was confirmed, thanks to opposition from the GOP’s more conservative wing, many of them members of the pro-Trump “Freedom Caucus.”
In the first round, 19 Republicans opposed McCarthy before that number fell to six who voted “present” in the 15th and final round. The last time the House went beyond a single round to confirm a speaker was in 1923.
What did his opponents want?The Freedom Caucus has long argued that McCarthy is too receptive to compromise with the Democratic Party, and not aggressive enough on immigration, spending reform, or regulating Big Tech companies.
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While some members of this group – such as Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz — Staying against McCarthy until the final vote, others demanded a set of rules that gave them more time to review legislation before voting, more authority over removing a speaker during Congress’ term, and strong committee assignments.
What is McCarthy’s position on Ukraine?
Earlier this week, Gaetz said that about McCarthy
“Again and again his views shift, his views shift like sand beneath you.” On the issue of US military aid to Ukraine – which almost all Democrats and Republicans enthusiastically support and some members of the Freedom Caucus oppose – this seems to be the case.
McCarthy said before the November midterm elections that if the GOP recaptured Congress, they would no longer give Kiev
“a blank check.” Under pressure from CNN several days later, he insisted that he was “very supportive of Ukraine”, but would insist “responsibility.”
McCarthy voted in May for a $40 billion economic and military aid package for Ukraine, but against a massive $1.7 trillion outlay with another $40 billion for Kiev in December.
What do voters think?According to a Rasmussen poll earlier this week, less than half (48%) of Republican voters wanted the GOP to pick McCarthy as speaker. Meanwhile, 29% said he should be dropped from the fight, while 23% were undecided.
What happens now?With the deadlock resolved, the House can get back to business as usual: vote on legislation and oversee government services. McCarthy has pledged a border security bill and pledged that his committees will investigate the Biden family’s allegedly corrupt foreign dealings, investigate the FBI’s role in online censorship and investigate the origins of Covid-19.