(Bloomberg) -- Republican Kevin McCarthy was increasingly confident Friday that he’ll gain the additional votes he needs to be elected as House speaker after converting some of the holdouts that had blocked him over the previous three days.
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“We’re going to win,” McCarthy said.
The House adjourned until 10 p.m. Friday so that McCarthy and his allies could seal the deal. After the 12th and 13th round of balloting Friday afternoon, McCarthy flipped 15 of the 21 Republicans who withheld their support. With the GOP holding a narrow 222-212 majority, he still will need at least two of the six remaining holdouts, depending on absences, to win on a 14th ballot. That would be the longest round of speaker votes since 1859.
Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, one of McCarthy’s most entrenched opponents, conceded McCarthy would win. “It’s looking like it’s heading that way,” he said. But Gaetz touted the concessions — many of which will hamstring him as speaker — that McCarthy had to make to win the votes.
“I said there’s two ways this ends. And it was either the defeat of McCarthy or it was going to be the rules and personnel paradigm that gave us a functional straightjacket,” Gaetz said. “And we’re working our way to one of those outcomes.”
The House has been paralyzed as the speaker drama played out, unable to conduct any business or swear-in new and returning members.
McCarthy began turning the tide in his favor after making multiple concessions to Republican hardliners, who sought changes to House rules that would give them more influence as well as promises to attempt to cut government spending.
McCarthy’s optimism had been growing since a pivotal conference call Friday morning to hash out the contours of a deal as the fractious caucus entered its fourth day of an increasingly bitter public feud.
McCarthy’s allies had focused on winning over Texas Representative Chip Roy, a conservative whose influence would bring many of the holdouts into McCarthy’s camp.
Roy has been angling to open up floor procedures to amendment votes, forbidding giant packages of bills and to guarantee conservatives have more seats on key committees — all points of contention with moderates in the party. McCarthy during the call said that bills would still go through committees and that he had not given away committee gavels to reach the accord.
One concession McCarthy has made is to allow any single member to bring an immediate vote to depose the speaker at any time.
Another emerging part of McCarthy’s deal with dissidents is to hold discretionary spending at the fiscal 2022 level of $1.47 trillion. Defense hawks in the party plan to direct all the cuts involved toward social programs. The resulting pushback from the Senate risks long term stopgap spending bills starting in October.
Senior members of the Appropriations Committee balked at suggestions that McCarthy opponents be given plum committee assignments they have not earned via seniority and appear to have won that fight. And they are fighting attempts to block earmarks for lawmakers’ pet projects.
Republicans are waiting for two McCarthy supporters to return to the Capitol to vote. Representative Wesley Hunt was away to meet his newborn child and Representative Ken Buck left Thursday because of illness. With all GOP members present, McCarthy only needs to flip two more of the six members who have yet to support him.
Electing a speaker is the first order of business for House members, and they can do nothing else until that’s done except adjourn. That includes swearing in House members.
McCarthy’s back-to-back losses marked a post-Civil War record for the number of ballots needed to select a speaker. In 1923, Frederick Gillett, a Massachusetts Republican, was elected to the post after nine ballots. The last multi-ballot speaker vote before that was in 1859, when 44 votes were needed.
Only four other speaker elections have taken more than 14 ballots.
--With assistance from Laura Davison, Mike Dorning, Jennifer Jacobs, Christian Hall and Diego Areas Munhoz.
(Updates with details on budget concessions in 12th paragraph)
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