It was an unworthy scenario for American politics that played out in the Capitol these past few days. It took Kevin McCarthy 15 ballots to be elected the new speaker for the House of Representatives - the last time it took more ballots was in 1859/1860, when Republican William Pennington was only elected to the third-highest office in US politics after 44 ballots. How long the Republican is allowed to hold office is in the hands of the right wing of the party, which only gave in after numerous concessions from McCarthy (read more about this here).
Late on Friday evening, it became apparent that the drama of the election and the past four days had left its mark on some Republicans. When McCarthy also lost his 14th ballot, emotions ran high among some members of the Grand Old Party, as Republicans like to call themselves. First, McCarthy tried again to talk to Matt Gaetz, the face of up to 20 insurgents in the party. Gaetz, a representative from Florida, gave in for the first time in the 14th round and abstained from voting for a Republican opponent. But because four defectors continued to stick to the strategy of voting for Republicans other than McCarthy, McCarthy failed again. "On your knees," shouted someone from the Democratic block of the House of Representatives - alluding to McCarthy's desperate admissions to his party colleagues.
But it wasn't just an exchange between the two Republicans, more and more members of the party gathered for the debate until the undignified climax of the speaker election came. C-Span images showed Alabama Congressman Mike Rodgers angrily seeking the direct route to Gaetz. What Rodgers shouted at Gaetz cannot be heard on the video, but Rodgers had to be held back from possible physical violence - by his party colleague Richard Hudson grabbing his face and pulling him back.
McCarthy himself only noticed the argument after a few seconds. He had just finished talking to Gaetz and was on his way back to his seat. Meanwhile, Cheryl Johnson, the clerk who has found unwanted fame in recent days, warned to remain "polite". The fact that the pictures were transmitted at all and further damage the party's reputation is something the Republicans have to blame themselves for. Because there was still no spokesman who was allowed to set the rules for filming in the plenary hall, the broadcaster was allowed to freely broadcast the impressions from the parliamentary hall to the world.
Neither Rodgers nor Gaetz wanted to comment on the incident afterwards, and McCarthy also downplayed the heated debate to the "New York Times". "There was nothing. There was a deadlock again and he (Matt Gaetz) managed to get the others to abstain," said the 57-year-old. Because in the final 15th ballot, the remaining four renegade Republicans also decided to vote "Present", which means one abstention. So it was possible for McCarthy to get the majority with 216 votes. Originally, the Republican would have needed 218 of his party's 222 votes.
Sources: NY Times, NPR, AP