WASHINGTON — For days as hardline lawmakers voted repeatedly to block him from becoming speaker, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California sat on the floor of the House with a grin on his face.

Speaking to reporters, he dismissed the notion that his historic and outrageous slog for the election – the longest such contest since 1859 – meant any trouble for him to govern with an unfettered and narrow majority. Predicted.

“It’s the great part,” Mr. McCarthy said. “Because it took so long, now we have learned to rule.”

But on Friday night, just as it appeared Mr McCarthy was finally going to win the speaker’s gavel, which he had not had for so long, was taken away from him at the last minute in a highly charged moment on the House floor When his few remaining opponents refused to bow down.

As voting progressed, it became clear that Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, who has emerged as a major opponent of Mr. McCarthy, would be the deciding vote. And when Mr. Gaetz voted “present”, denying Mr. McCarthy the necessary majority support, the California Republican blanched, rose from his seat and went to the House floor to speak to Mr. Gaetz himself.

After an energetic and wildly gesticulating Mr. Getz denied Mr. McCarthy’s request, Mr. McCarthy’s shoulders, for the first time this week, slumped visibly, and he slowly slid back to the floor and into his seat. get drowned.

It was a striking sight for a man who had spent all week projecting what has become his signature image to both his allies and detractors: an affable class president type who is all carrots and no stick, and backslapping and Is more skilled at political strategies than at policy making or legislative maneuvering.

But when lawmakers cast their vote on Friday night the 14th, Mr. McCarthy’s flexibility hadn’t gotten to his point yet.

Mr McCarthy had on Friday released 15 convicts, only a handful, a victory that brought him much closer to winning the speakership. This came after he offered a series of sweeping concessions that would substantially undermine his authority as speaker and create a fraught environment in the House, where a slim Republican majority and a hard-right faction with an appetite for disorder had already promised to make it. Difficult to do anything

But those concessions left out some key holdouts, including Gaetz, who for months repeatedly professed his disdain for McCarthy’s willingness to try to buy his way into the speakership.

It is in part that the disconnect created the conditions for Mr. McCarthy’s historic fight for the speakership, pushing forward a group of defectors who neither fear nor respect him, and who seek concessions from a legislator. Eager to extract the one who made it clear that he would stop at nothing to win the job. One of their ringleaders, Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida, said Tuesday that lawmakers should not give the position to someone who is willing to “sell their own stock” to get it.

“You have this time where McCarthy wants it so badly and has been raked over the coals for four days,” said Russ Watt, president of the right-wing Center for Renewing America. introduced by the Republican leader.

The carrot may yet succeed in winning Mr McCarthy the speaker’s gavel. But his willingness to compromise has also guaranteed that it will be nearly impossible for him to control the rebels in his ranks and ensure that the House can perform its most basic duties over the coming two years, such as Funding the government, including the military, or avoiding a catastrophic federal debt default.

“He will have to live the entirety of his oratory in a straitjacket built according to the rules that we are working on now,” Mr. Gaetz said.

Yet – at least before the frantic scene on the House floor on Friday – both fans and detractors said Mr McCarthy’s sheer willingness to sit on the House floor impeachment vote after the impeachment vote against him – even He apparently offered concessions—a sense that right-wing defectors would ever give up—was crucial to his metamorphosis. Under pressure to step aside when it appeared there was no possibility of the speaker’s hammer being clamped, he hung on anyway.

It also helped Mr. McCarthy’s cause that Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, his whip, or Patrick T. No viable challenger such as McHenry ever stepped forward to present himself as the consensus candidate who could end the impasse.

A longtime politician born and raised in one of California’s few remaining conservative pockets, the farming and oil town of Bakersfield, Mr. McCarthy cut his teeth as minority leader in the California State Legislature, where he was Known as the pleaser. The deal-cutter who gave iPods as gifts to his colleagues and compiled binders of information to better remember their birthdays and wedding anniversaries.

That brand of bohomy extended to the Tea Party era, when Mr. McCarthy and his fellow self-styled “Young Guns” from Wisconsin, Paul D. Ryan and Eric Cantor of Virginia recruited populist-inspired candidates who helped sweep their party. in the majority of the House, and Mr. McCarthy in the leadership.

In 2015, Mr. McCarthy defeated Ohio’s John A. The hard-right flank of that majority saw Boehner ousted from his speakership and blocked his first attempt to gain the job, with 40 of its members declaring they would not support him, questioning his conservative credentials.

They were also unhappy that he suggested in an interview on Fox News that the House committee investigating the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, had a political motive to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

California Republicans soon nominated former President Donald J. Trump, endorsing him as the party’s nominee in 2016 even though Mr. Ryan was reluctant to do so, eventually cultivating such a close relationship that Mr. Trump referred to him as “My Kevin”. referred to in , She famously presented Mr. Trump with a curated package of Starburst candies featuring only the former president’s favorite flavors.

The relationship came to a grinding halt after Jan. 6, 2021, when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol fueled by falsehoods of a stolen election, and Mr. McCarthy delivered a speech on the House floor denouncing Mr. Trump’s role.

“The President is responsible for the attack on Congress by the rioters on Wednesday,” he said. “When he saw what was happening, he should have immediately condemned the mob. These facts require immediate action by President Trump.

But the speech impressed Mr. Trump, and Mr. McCarthy worked to get back in the former president’s good graces, traveling to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, three weeks later. meet with him,

Almost exactly two years after Mr. Trump helped whip up votes for Mr. McCarthy this week, Republicans on Truth Social, his social media site, said that “Kevin McCarthy will do a good job, and maybe even a great job — just See! “

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