New House speaker Kevin McCarthy thanks Trump for ‘helping get those final votes’

McCarthy had earlier blamed Trump for encouraging his supporters to attack the US Capitol two years ago

Namita Singh
Saturday 07 January 2023 10:23 GMT
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Kevin McCarthy finally elected House Speaker after 15 rounds of voting as GOP rebels relent

After an extraordinary week of in-fighting from the Republican party, newly elected House speaker Kevin McCarthy thanked Donald Trump for helping him overcome holdouts from his own ranks and secure the final votes to seal his victory.

Things came full-circle for Mr McCarthy, who two years ago called it the “saddest day” of his political career as the GOP ceded both chambers of Congress and the presidency to Democrats and he denounced the violent insurrection at the Capitol.

In the days afterward, Mr McCarthy blamed the then-president for encouraging his supporters to march on Capitol Hill, where they then interrupted the certification of the 2020 election results.

Early on Saturday Mr McCarthy was finally elected House speaker in a post-midnight vote at the 15th time of asking, with fingers being pointed, words exchanged and outright violence apparently narrowly averted.

At one point, Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama started to charge toward Matt Gaetz before another Republican, Richard Hudson, physically pulled him back.

Former president Donald Trump also appeared to call Marjorie Taylor Greene late on Friday, with photographs showing the initials “DT” flashing up on her phone’s caller ID as she gestured to Mr McCarthy holdout Matt Rosendale.

After the tempers cooled, Mr McCarthy and his allies persuaded his remaining opponents to vote “present” rather than opposing his candidacy, handing him the speakership and ending the longest election for the title in 164 years.

“I hope one thing is clear,” the newly elected House speaker said when he finally took the gavel after 1am. “I never give up.”

Crediting Mr Trump for making late calls “helping get those final votes”, Mr McCarthy said, “he was with me from the beginning.”

The former president began lobbying for Mr McCarthy to become speaker after Republicans eked out a majority in the House of Representatives in the November midterm elections.

Mr McCarthy was among the senior Republicans who directly criticised Mr Trump in the immediate aftermath of the attack by his supporters on Congress.

Yet just three weeks later the then-minority leader took it upon himself to rehabilitate the relationship, visiting Mr Trump’s Florida residence and posing with him for photographs.

He took yet more steps to aid Mr Trump in the weeks and months that followed, including by opposing Mr Trump’s second impeachment and intervening to scuttle a deal he’d previously supported that would have provided for a bipartisan, bicameral commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Last month, Mr Trump told right-wing Breitbart News that House Republicans were playing with fire by not backing Mr McCarthy.

“I’m friendly with a lot of those people who are against Kevin. I think almost every one of them are very much inclined toward Trump, and me toward them. But I have to tell them, and I have told them, you’re playing a very dangerous game. You could end up with the worse situation,” he said at the time.

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