US House elects speaker on 15th attempt

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Following 15 separate votes, the US House of Representatives has appointed a new speaker, with Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy now set to fill the position after a days-long battle with insurgent Republicans.

While McCarthy was defeated in the 14th vote on Friday night, and the House appeared to be heading into the weekend without a speaker, Republicans pressed for another vote at the last minute. After gaining the support of more than a dozen fellow Republican members who had previously voted for other candidates, the California lawmaker was able to secure a majority vote in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida was the only Republican standing in McCarthy’s way before the vote, leading a group of 20 insurgent Republicans known as the pro-Trump Freedom Caucus during this week’s speaker votes. McCarthy, the lawmakers argued, is too willing to capitulate to Democrats and represents years of bad policymaking, preventing him from becoming speaker for four days of voting.

Democrats rallied behind New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who received 212 votes in the previous election, leaving a small group of Republicans to cast the deciding votes.

With voting beginning on Tuesday, the Republican stalemate created a highly unusual scenario for Congress. The last time the body went beyond a single round of voting to fill the speaker role was 100 years ago, in 1923, when Republican Frederick Gillett was appointed with nine ballots.

Without a speaker, lawmakers could not be sworn in and Congress could not begin its next session, making the vote critical for the legislature to function properly in the new year.