Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz walked into GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office Monday night with a list of demands. Among them: Chairing a key House Armed Services subcommittee.
McCarthy rejected the offer. The move set off a chain of events that left Gaetz and McCarthy locked in an open confrontation on the House floor late Friday night. Gaetz, McCarthy’s fiercest opponent, dramatically denied the California Republican the final vote he needed to become president – then Gaetz and the last resisters abruptly changed course allowing McCarthy to win the president’s gavel in his 15th attempt.
Ahead of the final vote, pandemonium erupted on the House floor after Gaetz waited until the very end of the 14th ballot to vote “present” when McCarthy needed another “yes”. Stunned after believing he had the votes, McCarthy faced his most embarrassing defeat yet. His allies surrounded Gaetz to try to find a way forward. McCarthy quickly bee lined for discussion and began engaging Gaetz as well.
After McCarthy walked away from Gaetz looking dejected, House Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers walked into the conversation and lunged at Gaetz, having to be physically restrained by Republican Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina. Rogers, a Republican from Alabama who earlier in the week warned GOP dissidents they would lose their committee assignments, told Gaetz he would be “finished” for continuing to wreck the vote of the president.
Nearby, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was trying to convince Representative Matt Rosendale of Montana, another McCarthy resister, to pick up her cell phone and talk to former President Donald Trump, who was on the line.
Finally, the Clerk of the House announced for the 14th time that no one had the right to vote to be Speaker. Republicans have moved to adjourn the chamber until Monday. As the clock ticked, 218 Republicans had voted yes, a majority that would have sent McCarthy home for the weekend and left the House paralyzed at the hands of Gaetz and his allies.
But with less than a minute until the vote, Gaetz moved to the front of the chamber, grabbing a red slip to change his adjournment vote. Gaetz walked over to McCarthy, and the two briefly exchanged words. McCarthy then raised his hand and shouted, “One more!” as he marched triumphantly to the front of the chamber to change his vote as well. It was the GOP leader’s final bargain, capping an emotional rollercoaster over the course of four days as he was held hostage by a narrow faction of his conference. Dozens of Republicans followed McCarthy and Gaetz to defeat the adjournment measure, and McCarthy’s victory, finally, was within reach.
Read a full timeline of the tumultuous week here: