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After 15 rounds of voting, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader of the US House of Representatives, elected as the new Speaker of Congress

House Republican leader McCarthy from California was officially elected speaker of the 55th U.S. Congress on Saturday.
House Republican leader McCarthy from California was officially elected speaker of the 55th U.S. Congress on Saturday.

CAPITOL HILL —After 15 rounds of voting since the opening of the new US Congress this week, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy finally broke through the halfway threshold in the early morning of Saturday (January 7) Eastern Time and was successfully elected as the 55th Speaker of the US Congress. This is the longest election for the speaker of Congress in the past 164 years.

According to the rules, a candidate for speaker must win at least a majority of the 435 deputies, or 218 votes, to be elected. However, the threshold for the election of the Speaker will vary depending on the number of people present and the number of abstentions. This means that with the Democrats united and all the members without abstaining, there can be no more than four Republican representatives against McCarthy.

In the 15th round of final voting, six Republicans abstained, raising the majority threshold to 215.

McCarthy won the votes of a number of far-right conservative members who had not originally supported him and defeated the Democratic nominee for the speaker, Hakeem Jeffries, by 212 votes to win the 118th Congress’ House of Representatives by 212 votes.

According to Reuters, McCarthy told reporters after the vote was announced, “I’m glad this is over.” ”

Republicans in the new House of Representatives have a slim majority with 222 seats, while Democrats hold 212. Another absent lawmaker was Rep. Donald McEachin, a recent Democrat from Virginia. A by-election for his seat will take place later this year.

The battle for the presidency was hard-won for McCarthy and most Republicans. McCarthy was seen as a conservative politician. He was also the minority leader of the House of Representatives in the previous Congress and has been trying to take the House gavel for years.

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Over the past few days, McCarthy has held several talks with about 20 ultraconservative members of the Republican Party to win their support, but McCarthy’s path to the election of speaker has been stalled.

It wasn’t until Friday, when the lawmakers’ attitudes softened, that McCarthy broke the deadlock that had lasted for days and finally reached a consensus with more than 10 far-right conservative Republicans and garnered their support.

“My father always told me that it’s not how you start, it’s how you end,” McCarthy said in a House speech after his election, “and now we need to have a strong finishing touch for the American people.” ”

A dramatic turn before the final vote

In fact, several Republicans, including McCarthy, had expressed considerable optimism about the 14th round of voting late Friday night, in which McCarthy would get enough votes to be elected speaker. As a result, the voting process changed dramatically, causing McCarthy to lose the battle for the speaker again and leading to the 15th round.

According to Reuters, McCarthy suffered another defeat near midnight when fellow Republican Matt Gaetz abstained in a crucial vote in the 14th round. At one point, McCarthy walked angrily towards Gates, causing a flurry of chaos in the venue.

Gates’ abstention also drew the ire of Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican. The broadcast screen shows Rogers walking towards Gates, pointing his finger at Gates to express his displeasure, and Rogers is finally stopped by other members present to prevent him from rushing further towards Gates in the House meeting, and the atmosphere is quite tense.

In an effort to win over hardline conservatives in the Republican Party, McCarthy agreed to make some compromises, including allowing a lawmaker to push for early internal elections to remove the speaker if he is unhappy with his legislative policies or the way he manages the House. It is believed that this will greatly weaken McCarthy’s power after becoming Speaker.

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McCarthy also agreed to the conservative lawmakers on key committees and pledged to put their legislative priorities on the agenda of the plenary session, including term limits on members of Congress and tougher border controls to stop undocumented migrants from entering the United States from the southwestern border with Mexico.

After the results of the election of the speaker, all the elected members of the House of Representatives also collectively completed the swearing-in ceremony under the auspices of the new speaker McCarthy, marking the official start of the 118th Congress.

A Republican leader from a Democratic family

McCarthy, 57, was born in Bakersfield, Calif., to a firefighter father and grandfather an immigrant from Italy. It is worth noting that McCarthy, who has been a Republican since entering politics, actually comes from a family background dominated by Democratic supporters. McCarthy was the first Republican in his family, and his parents were both Democrats.

While attending college at California State University, Bakersfield, McCarthy occasionally served as a firefighter in the fire department. McCarthy also briefly practiced business after obtaining an MBA in 1994.

McCarthy moved into politics in 2002, becoming a member of the California House of Representatives and serving as Republican leader of the California House of Representatives from 2004 to 2006. McCarthy was first elected to the U.S. House in 2007 and quickly moved up the Republican core, serving as the majority whip in the House from 2011 to 2014 and as majority leader from 2014 to 2019. In 2019, McCarthy gained Republican support to become the House Minority Leader.

The new Congress is expected to take a hard line on China

McCarthy said after his election that the Republican-controlled House would take a tough line on the challenge from Beijing.

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“On the Chinese Communist Party, we’re going to set up a cross-party China task force to look into how to bring back hundreds of thousands of jobs that were lost to China, and then we’ll win the economic competition,” McCarthy said.

Last November, McCarthy would announce his plans to create a “Select Committee on China” to address a range of issues and challenges between the United States and China. He then appointed Representative Mike Gallagher, a Republican from Wisconsin, as his first chairman.

“The Chinese Communist Party is the greatest geopolitical threat of our lives,” McCarthy said in a written statement in December.

McCarthy also said at a news conference last September, “For 50 years, the Chinese Communist Party has launched attacks on the American way of life, our economy, our jobs, our companies, our culture, our institutions, and our future.” ”

In his first address as a speaker on Saturday, McCarthy also mentioned that tracing the origins of the coronavirus will be one of the priorities of the new Congress.

On Taiwan, McCarthy called for greater cooperation between the United States and Taiwan. Last July, McCarthy invited Taiwan’s representative to the United States, Hsiao Mei-chin, to participate in the House of Representatives China Working Group roundtable.

“Congress must continue to act — not just to contain communist China, but to strengthen our ties with Taiwan,” McCarthy said at the July meeting, “and I think we should consider measures that include increasing arms sales to Taiwan, providing Taiwan with appropriate weapons to defend against China, allowing Taiwan to participate in training like RIMPAC exercises, allowing Taiwan to display its symbol of national sovereignty in the United States, increasing commercial and trade ties, and modernizing our own defense industrial base to maintain our leading military capabilities.”

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