Little did they know how high the heat was to rise at the House GOP convention before McCarthy claimed the gavel. As the weeks went on, Roy agreed to negotiate, but other dissidents — such as Reps. Matt Getz (R-Fla.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) — dug in to the bitter end, setting up a house floor scene closer to reality TV than C-SPAN.

Gaetz, Boebert and other staunch opponents ultimately voted “present” instead of McCarthy, narrowing the number of votes needed to win on the 15th ballot — thanks, in part, to a call from former President Donald Trump. The real breakthrough for the California Republican, however, came a few days ago, when Roy left the first-floor suite just before midnight on Tuesday with a stack of papers and his signature Diet Dr Pepper.

At that point, the situation in the McCarthy camp looked more dire than ever. At least 10 Republicans were seen as immovable, and that number was threatening to rise.

Lawmakers involved in that first meeting between the pro- and anti-McCarthy camps held in the majority whip’s office tom emmer (R-Minn.), said in interviews that he hadn’t even been formally given the green signal to hold talks, but was instead trying to put the wheels back on the wagon.

After another shaky 24 hours — which brought four more failed ballots — a larger version of the group gathered on Wednesday and was able to hold a conversation where no one shouted at each other, according to a McCarthy aide who attended the conversation. . One GOP lawmaker described the moment as a “meeting of the minds” on nearly every issue, the first glimpse of the affirmative action movement.

“It’s Chip Roy and Scott Perry and Byron Donalds and others who are working toward just a solution — that’s what allowed us to get there,” said Rep. Bruce Westman (R-Ark.), a McCarthy nominee who engaged in several evening and late-night talks this week with McCarthy holdouts.

Asked whether he knew the speaker’s critics would now be willing to compromise, Westman admitted that he did not. What he did know, he added, was that “they would talk.”

low before high

Millie McCarthy’s victory just after midnight capped a 16-year roller coaster of ascent for the ambitious California Republican. After his victory became clear, with Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) casting the final “present” vote, McCarthy smiled and pumped a fist in the air.

The euphoric moment ended with a dramatic display of a day’s worth of GOP tensions played out on national TV, with C-SPAN cameras allowed to show every angle of the temporarily rules-free chamber. The House saw it all that week: public heckling, dogs on the floor, near-scuffles, accusations of drinking in the chamber, selfie videos and crying babies.

It was a cliffhanger until the end: McCarthy and his allies began the final ballot confidently, but four holdouts — Reps. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), bob good (R-va.), andy biggs (R-Ariz.) and Rosendale – quietly moved to the floor. In the end, they would all surrender by voting, finally giving the gavel to McCarthy.

The triumphant performance followed the failure of the 14th ballot and an even grimmer mood at the convention a few days earlier, with chatter growing that the ghost of McCarthy’s 2015 speakership failure had resurfaced. After a long climb following that failed bid in 2015, Republicans have largely seen McCarthy as a sure bet for the gavel over the past two years.

Then the November midterms brought the GOP only the narrowest of victories — casting renewed doubt on McCarthy’s gavel dreams. And conservative skeptics are once again venting their frustrations.

But when many members began to signal that they would oppose McCarthy until the end of November, 24 hours before dawn, their fate looked for the worst.

A GOP lawmaker contacted a group of conservatives on Thursday and asked if they would consider a compromise with the majority leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) As speaker and representative. jim jordan (R-Ohio) as majority leader, two House Republicans told POLITICO. But those McCarthy dissidents rejected the deal, some saying they wanted Jordan with at least one other endorsement. Donald (R-Fla.).

The Scalise-centric attack came as members aligned with Louisiana, according to three different House Republicans, also said other members would take their temperature on elevating McCarthy to No. 2 if they couldn’t get the vote. Were staying And the outreach wasn’t just focused on Scalise: Other House Republicans were also calling on behalf of allies seen as potential consensus candidates.

Scalise distanced himself from any of those attempts, with the entire House watching McCarthy falter. One Republican, who permitted anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, noted that Scalise stayed out of the speakership talks entirely and went to great lengths to ensure that no one nominated him or Doesn’t mention his name publicly.

McCarthy’s aides repeatedly insisted that another candidate was never a possibility.

“If they keep pulling you start to see some drop down. But as long as Kevin wanted to stay in the race, there were always people … to protect him,” Westerman said. “I promise you, there were five of us who weren’t going to vote for anybody else.”

playing the long game

McCarthy’s allies attributed much of his success to his strategic accumulation of supporters during the convention, who ranged from institutionalists to swing-seat moderates to conservative bulldogs.

The California Republican, who saw his fellow “Young Guns” Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor being chewed out by Tea Party conservatives, has put his political acumen — always his strength over policy — into steering around GOP pressure points, among them Trump was in the lead. Jordan, a one-time adversary of McCarthy, proved to be a key partner in that effort during the speaker crisis that lasted the day.

Jordan worked behind the scenes with McCarthy to bring members of the House Freedom Caucus into the fold and threw his weight behind some of the rule changes he was advocating. Underscoring Jordan’s importance to the new speaker, an aide to McCarthy said the victory “would not have been possible without him.”

After losing dozens of votes in a closed-door convention meeting a week after the midterms, McCarthy and his allies began working weeks ago to overturn Freedom Caucus holdouts. He convened meetings in his then office just off the House floor, which were designed to hear conservatives on everything from chamber rules to appropriations.

And McCarthy did all that work, in some cases, with little understanding of his own success. repealed. ben cline (R-Va.) was tight-lipped about his speaker vote and didn’t make the call until he was on the floor to cast his first ballot, he recalled.

“My concerns were about the budget and the rules, and the conference certainly made changes that reflected my concerns,” he said.

Meanwhile, Representative Michael Cloud (R-Texas), who turned in McCarthy’s direction on Friday, nearly lost his voice during nonstop talking in the final days. (He’s not the only one: McCarthy’s voice also got hoarse this week.)

when hand-wringing became literal

It wasn’t just McCarthy’s inner circle. Ad-hoc groups of senior Republicans helped round up several more holdouts, including Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), which didn’t flip until the second-to-final vote.

Harris, a staunch conservative, had angered many allies by tying their vote to McCarthy for seeking to lead a key appropriations subcommittee. And he felt deeply alienated after a small group of McCarthy supporters removed the voter from committees as punishment. Separately, angry senior appropriators personally warned McCarthy to disapprove of Harris’s power play.

“I think what happened, he got heated, it hurt his feelings … he thought he was in a bad place,” said a GOP lawmaker speaking on condition of anonymity.

Eventually, that member joined with several others to set up private talks between Harris, McCarthy, and other senior Republicans, with the aim of ensuring that Harris would not be punished for flipping his vote. This included maintaining his seniority on the Appropriations Panel. Ultimately, Harris decided to drop his objections.

The idea of ​​booting anti-McCarthy members from committees was floated by some centrists and echoed by Rep. mike rogers (R-Ala.) during a raucous conference-wide meeting on Tuesday. But in the end, the holdouts were assured of no punishment for their early votes.

“Anybody who thinks that bullying the holdout will win doesn’t understand how this city works anymore,” said Rep. dusty johnson (RS.D.), who lead the Main Street Caucus and helped ease tensions over potential anti-McCarthy payback.

“This is not machine politics from the 1800s,” Johnson said.

Friday night on the floor was perhaps just a taste of the famously brutal politics of that century.

Rogers, whose anger has flared all week over the conservatives’ sportsmanship, clashed with Gaetz after Floridians voted for the 14th time to tank McCarthy’s speakership bid, fueling GOP leaders’ upbeat projections that victory would be close. I was in

“It’s painful to watch. Shocking. The country deserves better. And I’m sorry the American public is having to watch this,” said a frustrated Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) as the House reconvened without a speaker. ready to adjourn.

However, he spoke to many Republicans inside the chamber – including Andrew Garberino (NY), Scott Fitzgerald (Vis.) and Nicole Maliotakis (NY) – began rallying members to change their votes and be against adjournment.

“Gaetz came in and said, ‘We’re going to get it done’,” Garbarino recalled of the uproar after that 14th ballot: “I said, ‘All right, tell him’,” pointing to McCarthy. doing.

Outside the chamber, an employee pulled a distraught Womack back to the floor. A deal was made with the previous holdouts.

One vote later, McCarthy had the gavel.

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