Kevin McCarthy's Bid For Speaker Of The House Was A Hot Mess. But After 15 Votes, The California Republican Finally Won The Gavel

The inability of Republicans to coalesce around a candidate for House speaker was the longest bid in 164 years — and the butt of jokes on social media.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy was finally elected speaker of the House of Representatives in the wee hours of Saturday morning after failing to win a majority in 14 rounds of voting.

For four long, exhausting days, the Republican party struggled to coalesce around a candidate to lead the House after winning a narrow majority in the chamber in the Nov. 8 election. It was the longest bid for speaker in 164 years — and the butt of jokes on social media.

I am now calling on @ABC to offer Kevin McCarthy his Dancing With The Stars contract NOW, so he can leave this fight with dignity.

Twitter: @ElieNYC

In the final and 15th ballot, McCarthy won 216 votes, while House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries received 212 votes from his fellow Democrats. Six Republicans voted present, lowering the threshold McCarthy needed to win a majority.

The stalemate kept the representatives from being formally sworn in and prevented the House from getting started on any legislative work.

Though McCarthy started out Friday with two more losses in the 12th and 13th vote tallies, the California Republican made significant progress and flipped more than a dozen holdouts in his favor. The House then voted to adjourn until 10 p.m. ET before returning to vote yet again.

McCarthy and his allies appeared confident that they finally had the votes going into the 14th count, but they ultimately fell short by one vote in a stunning defeat. The late-night drama sparked an ugly confrontation on the House floor with Rep. Mike Rogers having to be physically restrained while getting into a verbal altercation with Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose decision to vote present instead of for McCarthy cost the would-be speaker a victory on the 14th ballot.

The members then opted to try one last time after apparently reaching a last-minute deal as they were voting on a motion to adjourn. This time, the votes were finally there.

The drawn-out opposition to McCarthy came from a small group of Republicans who seemingly don't trust him and demanded concessions, such as less government spending and specific policy changes, like allowing a single lawmaker to force a snap vote at any time to oust the speaker.

Many of the Republicans who voted against McCarthy are part of the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus and were endorsed by former president Donald Trump. Most of them denied the outcome of the 2020 election.

On Tuesday night, after the first day of voting, Sean Hannity of Fox News said on air that House Republicans "are now on the verge of becoming a total clown show if they're not careful."

House Democrats, on the other hand, consistently united behind Jeffries, who was the top vote-getter until McCarthy and his allies managed to convince their colleagues to fall in line.

“This is a disaster for the Republicans,” Fox News host Steve Doocy said Wednesday on Fox & Friends.

Here were some of the best online reactions to this very chaotic start to 2023 as the mess unfolded.

Kevin McCarthy is just a few steps away from singing "I Dreamed a Dream"

Twitter: @BenjaminJS

Years from now this will all be a @Jeopardy question -- “Elected Official Who Lost The Most Consecutive Votes For #SpeakerOfTheHouse In U.S. HISTORY” https://t.co/FiAXElCeIe

Twitter: @JuanSaaa

Round 12 Will Kevin McCarthy become Speaker of the House this time?

Twitter: @quadcarl_carl

Jason Derulo has fallen down the steps at Kevin McCarthy's 5th House Speaker vote

Twitter: @schlife

Kevin McCarthy showing up for the 10th vote

Twitter: @RealChalagay

I love when politics get messy bc it’s like watching a youtube drama video but with real consequences. coffeezilla vs logan paul has nothing on mccarthy losing the house speaker vote 6 times

Twitter: @holy_schnitt

201 Republicans preparing to vote for Kevin McCarthy once again for the 38th time

Twitter: @chrisoIIey

happy Third Day of Kevin McCarthy’s Humiliation to all who celebrate

Twitter: @abughazalehkat

.@SteveKornacki keeping track of all of Kevin McCarthy’s losses.

Twitter: @dozygay
Twitter: @jacksonboaz_
Twitter: @TheDailyShow

How many times has Kevin McCarthy lost the vote for Speaker of the House?

Twitter: @WUTangKids

Kevin McCarthy’s speaker battle has become a seemingly endless, gripping drama and epic spectacle. Which is why we’re calling it:

Twitter: @colbertlateshow

This is the best season of cspan…ever.

Twitter: @jonstewart

Who will last longer? Vote in the comments👇

Twitter: @ProjectLincoln

The speakership now goes to penalty kicks

Twitter: @lizzieohreally

Stephanie K. Baer contributed reporting.