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Expecting win, McCarthy comes up short again in late-night vote

Four opponents still choose others while Gaetz, Boebert vote ‘present’

Forida Republican Matt Gaetz gestures as Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy stands nearby during the 14th ballot for speaker on Friday.
Forida Republican Matt Gaetz gestures as Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy stands nearby during the 14th ballot for speaker on Friday. (Bill Clark/ CQ Roll Call)

Kevin McCarthy, after predicting he would have the votes to become speaker on the 14th ballot, fell one vote short on the first vote after the House reconvened Friday night.

The last holdout who hadn’t voted was Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, who McCarthy ally North Carolina Republican Patrick Henry spent most of the vote working.

In the end Gaetz voted “present,” which was a conciliatory gesture from someone who pledged never to vote for the California Republican — but not enough to help McCarthy secure the gavel.

Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert, who had said she would never support McCarthy, also voted “present.” She had expressed some support for the commitments he made to fellow holdouts.

After Gaetz voted, McCarthy walked over to where he was sitting to plead with him to change his vote. Gaetz appeared to deny him, and McCarthy walked back down the aisle, a disappointed frown written all over his face.

While McCarthy was standing there, Alabama Republican Mike Rogers tried to go talk — or more likely yell — at Gaetz. North Carolina Republican Richard Hudson grabbed Rogers and pulled him back by the shoulder with one hand, while covering his mouth with the other.

After the final tally confirmed McCarthy was one vote short, a motion was made to adjourn until Monday, but while that tally was being taken, Gaetz apparently had a change of heart. He was seen standing before McCarthy, and the leader was patting him on the arm. Republicans then began switching votes to defeat their own motion to adjourn, and began another ballot for speaker.

Ultimately, the same tally McCarthy had on the 14th ballot, 216 votes, was enough to win on the 15th ballot. Four Republicans who had voted against him all week, Arizona’s Andy Biggs and Eli Crane, Virginia’s Bob Good and Montana’s Matt Rosendale, voted “present,” bringing the total needed for a majority down to 215. On the 14th ballot, Biggs and Good had voted for Ohio Republican Jim Jordan, while Crane and Rosendale voted for Biggs.

“I’m not going to participate in the continuation of the Uniparty,” Biggs tweeted before the vote.

Good released a New York Times op-ed before the vote reiterating his view that “Kevin McCarthy has failed to secure the trust of the entire Republican conference to be the leader who will fight to change the status quo in Washington.”

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