McCarthy fails to win Speakership as Gaetz casts deciding vote

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)
Greg Nash
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) during the fourteenth ballot for Speaker on Friday, January 6, 2023.

In a stunning display on the chamber floor late Friday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) cast a dramatic present vote for Speaker, preventing Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from securing the 217 total votes he needs to win the Speakership.

McCarthy received 216 votes, with 212 for incoming House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and four Republicans voting for other candidates. Gaetz and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) voted present. 

That left McCarthy with 216 of the 432 votes cast, one less than he needed for a majority. 

Two sources said Boebert was expected to vote in favor of McCarthy but then changed her vote to present without telling anyone.

Republicans applauded Gaetz when he cast his present vote, even though it prevented them from getting the 217 votes McCarthy needed at that point to win the election.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a key McCarthy lieutenant who had been sitting with Gaetz through much of the vote, was among those who stood to applaud Gaetz.

Gaetz waited until the last minute to cast his vote of “present” — a shift from the previous 13 rounds, when he’d voted for a specific individual.

But it was not enough to put McCarthy over the top, a realization that came to McCarthy and his allies in dramatic fashion.

McCarthy walked over to where Gaetz was sitting in the chamber after he realized he had not hit the magic number for winning the Speakership.

At one point, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) angrily approached the group, and incoming National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Richard Hudson (R-N.C.) physically restrained him and pulled him back. McCarthy had walked away from the huddle at that point.

Rogers declined to comment while walking off the floor.

It capped a wild day in the House in which McCarthy previously won over 14 of the 20 Republican holdouts, who had opposed him for the Speakership on previous ballots cast over the last three days.

The House had adjourned until 10 p.m. to hold what was to be a final vote to put McCarthy over the top.

This story was updated at 11:41 p.m.

Tags Hakeem Jeffries House Speakership vote Kevin McCarthy Kevin McCarthy Lauren Boebert Matt Gaetz Matt Gaetz Mike Rogers Patrick McHenry Richard Hudson

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