Musical chairs and rock'em sock'em: Kevin McCarthy claimed a hard-won victory as speaker

After a near brawl broke out on the House floor Friday night, McCarthy finally got his votes

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published January 7, 2023 9:22AM (EST)

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) transfers the gavel to Speaker-elect Kevin McCarthy after Republicans won the vote for speaker in Washington, DC on January 6th, 2022. (Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) transfers the gavel to Speaker-elect Kevin McCarthy after Republicans won the vote for speaker in Washington, DC on January 6th, 2022. (Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

After returning from adjournment late Friday night, House Republicans were dead set on putting an end to the days long voting sessions that had yet to tally in favor of Kevin McCarthy, or anyone else for that matter, as Speaker of the House — so much so that a brawl nearly broke out.

Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, an opponent of McCarthy throughout the duration of the voting sessions, positioned himself in the roll call lineup on Friday in such a way as to ensure that his vote would be the deciding factor on whether McCarthy would spend his first morning as the newly appointed speaker on Saturday, or end the night with another adjournment.

According to The Washington Post, when it came time for Gaetz's vote to be heard, he offered "present" instead of a name, leaving McCarthy one vote short of where he needed to be in order to declare victory, which caused quite a fracas.

Alabama's Mike D. Rogers, who is expected to become chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, rushed forth to exchange heated words with Gaetz regarding his vote, and when the confrontation threatened to get physical, was then restrained by Richard Hudson (R-N.C.).

As reporter Alejandra Caraballo points out in a tweet sharing video of the moment, this was the "first physical altercation on the floor of the House since 1985."


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In The Washington Post's coverage of the upset, they mention that Marjorie Taylor Green was seen waving her cellphone about with the letters DT visible on the call screen, presumably offering Trump on the line to weigh in on the matter, but no one was interested in speaking with him.

With many on the House floor huddling to reason with Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, who also voted "present" on Friday, a move was made to kill another motion to adjourn and a final vote took place, resulting in McCarthy's win.


By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is a journalist and fiction writer who lives in New Orleans. She is Salon's Nights and Weekends Editor covering daily news, politics and culture. Her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere and the co-host of The Antler Queens podcast 

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Kevin Mccarthy Matt Gaetz Speaker Of The House