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U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters in Statuary Hall after being elected in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 7, 2023 in Washington, D.C. After four days of voting and 15 ballots, the California Republican secured enough votes to become Speaker for the 118th Congress. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Image

(LifeSiteNews) – Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California was elected U.S. House speaker early Saturday morning on the 15th ballot after five days of negotiations.

McCarthy clinched the speakership in a late-night vote Saturday, winning 216 votes to Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries’ 212 after losing 14 previous rounds of voting.

Every House speaker since 1923 had won election on the first ballot.

Six staunchly anti-McCarthy Republicans, including Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Andy Biggs of Arizona, voted “present,” which lowered the threshold for a candidate to win.

McCarthy, a longtime member of House Republican leadership, is unpopular with the party’s conservative base due to his weakness on same-sex “marriage,” ties to Big Tech and the World Economic Forum, and support of Democrat-backed spending bills and military aid for Ukraine.

As House Minority Leader, McCarthy notably gave Republican congressmen permission last summer to vote for the “Respect for Marriage Act,” Democrats’ bill to codify same-sex “marriage.”

His blessing turned into a catastrophe for social conservatives: The bill ultimately passed the House with an unexpectedly large number of Republican votes, prompting Democrats to take it up in the Senate, and setting off an unsuccessful, months-long push to derail the bill, which Joe Biden triumphantly signed in December.

McCarthy seemed headed for defeat earlier this week after repeatedly failing to win over around 20 Republican defectors, many of them from the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

But he made a breakthrough on Friday, however, flipping more than a dozen GOP holdouts with a list of concessions that rankled establishment Republicans, including:

  • Allowing a single House member to bring a motion to elect a new speaker.
  • Putting three members of the Freedom Caucus on the powerful House Rules Committee, which controls which bills go to the House floor. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes on the committee, giving Freedom Caucus members an effective veto over proposed legislation.
  • Promising to hold votes on a balanced budget amendment and legislation to increase border security, establish congressional term limits, and end COVID mandates.
  • Adopting a resolution that balances the budget in 10 years and caps spending at fiscal 2022 levels.
  • Creating a committee to investigate weaponization of the FBI and other federal agencies against Americans.
  • Moving appropriations bills individually, rather than as one “omnibus” package at the end of the year.
  • Rejecting increases to the debt limit without spending cuts.
  • Giving members more power to offer amendments on the House floor.
  • Allowing 72 hours to review bills before floor votes.

Republicans on Monday will consider a House rules package expected to include many of the concessions, The New York Times reported.

Control of the House gives Republicans expansive oversight powers and means that they can block Biden’s legislative agenda. Top GOP congressman have announced plans to launch a series of investigations into Biden and his administration.

Trump played key role in McCarthy’s election

Former President Donald Trump reportedly played a critical role in McCarthy’s eventual victory.

Breitbart reported that Trump, who endorsed McCarthy for the speakership last month, “had been engaged in the process since early December, making phone calls throughout the month to whip votes and consolidate support behind McCarthy.”

Trump on Friday made phone calls to Gaetz and Biggs, stressing to them “that the matter needed to be resolved,” according to the outlet. “Ultimately on the 15th round, they both voted ‘present,’ helping to lower the vote threshold for McCarthy.”

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia also attributed McCarthy’s comeback win to Trump. “His statements that he put out in support of Kevin McCarthy, it was like cement for our 201 that refused to move away from Kevin,” said the conservative congresswoman, who surprised observers by throwing her support behind McCarthy.

“It told many of them that, ‘Look, the support is there,’” she added. “Trump telling everyone in that statement that ‘I’m calling. I’m working the phones. I’m talking with everybody.’ That was support that was needed at a critical time when members could have fallen off.”

Trump’s backing of McCarthy comes amid mounting frustration with the former president among conservatives due to his continued support of the COVID-19 vaccines and homosexuality, recent comments attacking pro-life candidates, and a gala that he hosted at his Mar-a-Lago home last month to celebrate homosexual Republicans.