WASHINGTON — Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, confident he was about to win the speaker’s gavel after four days of defeats, sat smiling in his chair on the House floor late Friday. Then his face fell.

As voting progressed on his 14th attempt to become speaker, it was clear that winning would require the support of Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, the Republican leader’s main opponent – ​​and Mr Gaetz had just voted “present”. did.

For several days as the historic floor fight played out, Mr. McCarthy remained in his seat and privately sent aides to buttonhole the remaining holdouts. Now, his beaming smile replaced by a clenched jaw, Mr. Mr. McCarthy strolled across the floor to confront Gaetz, who leaned back in his seat, feigning defiance.

Mr. McCarthy spoke sternly to Mr. Gaetz, urging him to finally relent and let the speaking crisis pass; On refusing, the Republican of Florida chopped off his finger. After two minutes, Mr. McCarthy, fuming and his head down—the first look of frustration he’d shown all week—returned to his seat. He didn’t have the votes.

The stunning spectacle that played out in the early hours of Saturday morning was a fitting coda to a week that exposed deep divisions in the Republican Party, a formidable hard-right force that manifests itself in furthering the normal functions of government. , and a leader who has repeatedly succumbed to the right wing in his quest for power.

The final hours of Mr. McCarthy’s ultimately victorious struggle for the speakership featured a back-room tackle of hard right and arm-twisting out in the open; To try to win over the holdouts twice impeached former President Donald J. phone call from Trump; negotiating how the House would operate over the coming two years; and even a narrowly escaped physical altercation inside the chamber.

“Preferably, you do it privately,” said Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, who served as Mr. McCarthy’s chief emissary negotiating with the rebels. “The preference in politics is always to suffer your humiliation in private, not in public. That was the goal. And last weekend, it was clear that we would have to pay publicly.

He did the suffering.

“It was easy, huh?” “I never thought we’d be up here,” said Mr. McCarthy after finally taking the gavel just after 1 a.m.

Over the last century, the negotiations and bargaining that lead to the elevation of new House speakers have generally taken place behind closed doors and far beyond the actual election; Not since 1923 has a nominated speaker required more than one ballot to be elected. Instead, on Friday, most of the 11th Hour round of talks was televised in real time for all to see.

The chaos without the speaker leaving the house for a week also allowed the resentment to become more public. Photographers and videographers were free from the usual rules governing their conduct as there were no speakers at either venue, giving the audience a rare opportunity to watch the film live from the House floor.

As Mr. McCarthy’s allies bargained fiercely with hard-right holdouts, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who recently aligned with Mr. McCarthy and has been lobbying hard for him, tried to keep Mr. Trump were doing, who supported it. The Republican leader, on the phone with Representative Matt Rosendale of Montana, a key defector.

Mr Rosendale furiously told Ms Green not to put him in that position, brushing off the phone, according to lawmakers who saw it.

Around the same time, Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama, who is in line to become the next chairman of the Armed Services Committee, had to be physically restrained by another legislator, who attacked Mr. Mr. Getz.

“We haven’t seen this in a century,” said Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, the last time a speaker election dragged past nine ballots. “We’re in an emotional climate to begin with, even before we got here. It’s emotions running high.

Mr Rogers has expressed his frustration with the defectors over the past week, threatening during a closed-door party discussion on Tuesday they could lose their seats on committees for their loyalty. But he reserved particular contempt for Mr. Gaetz, a fourth-term Florida Republican and Trump retainer who has established himself as an attention-grabbing rabble-rouser on Capitol Hill.

Mr Gaetz had told Mr McCarthy and his aides that he was interested in leading an influential panel on the Armed Services Committee, where he has served since entering Congress in 2017. Mr. Rogers was having none of it.

Now, Mr. Gaetz and Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado, the two most intractable holdouts, were refusing to budge, demanding that the House be adjourned until Monday before any further voting could take place.

Ms. Green, one of Mr. McCarthy’s most vocal supporters, was seen rolling her eyes as she walked up to Ms. Boebert, a fellow member of the Freedom Caucus, and patted her on the shoulder.

“You need to stop,” said Ms. Green. Ms. Boebert replied curtly, staring straight ahead.

“They said they agreed to both present votes and they voted present, so that’s as far as they were going to go,” said Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado.

Crestfallen, Mr. McCarthy went back to his seat, and Mr. McHenry asked to adjourn the House.

Yet there was still movement to be had after all. After failing on the 14th vote, Mr. Trump called Mr. Gaetz, according to two people familiar with the conversation. CNN also reported that he had reached out to Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, another dissident who is also holding out as a large group of defectors threw their support behind McCarthy earlier in the day.

As the vote to adjourn began, there was a change in energy on the floor of the House, and an uproar changed the mood. With little warning, both Mr Gaetz and Ms Boebert marched to the well of the chamber and raised red cards to show they were deferring their votes for “no”.

“Everyone take your seats,” Mr. McCarthy said with a sigh of relief. “Let’s do it one more time.”

On the next ballot – the 15th and final – Mr. Gaetz and Ms. Boebert cast identical “present” votes, and the last of the holdouts fell in line and changed their votes to “present” as well, allowing Mr. McCarthy to win.

“Matt really wanted to get everybody there,” McCarthy said of Gaetz during an informal news conference later in the night. “People’s emotions go up and down through it all, and at the end of the night, Matt got everyone out there.”

Both McCarthy’s allies and rebels have remained tight-lipped about what exactly prompted the final group of defectors to switch their votes between the 14th and 15th ballots, paving the way for their ascent to the speakership , a dynamic that underscored the extent to which Mr. McCarthy and his allies blessed the major concessions, which would transform the House with little notice or fanfare.

Some, such as Mr McCarthy’s offer to return to a rule that would allow rank-and-file MPs to force a snap vote to oust the speaker, were publicly discussed for several days, while others, such as the promise to equip a subcommittee tasked with investigating the “weaponisation of government” with the same resources as the 6 January select committee, were only beginning to fizzle out.

Mr Trump, for his part, attributed the success to his own intervention in a statement titled “President Trump Finalizes Speaker Deal” on Saturday.

After shunning a half-dozen lawmakers who helped negotiate a way out of the impasse, Mr. McCarthy lashed out at Mr. Trump during a news conference at Statue Hall after being elected.

The moment came two years after he stood on the floor of the House after rioters attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, and said that while Mr Trump took “responsibility” for the attack, “the mob must immediately condemn,” and said that “these” facts require immediate action by President Trump.

Within weeks, however, he was making a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to fix fences with an angry Mr. Trump, and was deeply engaged in an effort to block the investigation into the January 6 riots. On Saturday morning, Mr McCarthy suggested he owed his position to the former president.

“I especially want to thank President Trump,” he said. “I don’t think anyone should doubt their influence.”

As he rattled off a list of agenda items he said Mr Trump would like to unify Republicans on, including improving the economy and border security, Mr McCarthy concluded: “To do all that Had a great impact. So thank you, President Trump.

Emily Cochrane And luke broadwater And maggie haberman Contributed reporting.

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