The almost ritualistic humiliation of Kevin McCarthy continued Friday as he lost even more times in his attempt to become Speaker of the House. But after Florida Republican Matt Gaetz torpedoed the 14th such vote — with what appears to be deliberate dramatic flair — one of his GOP colleagues got so angry he had to be physically restrained.
You can watch the entire clip above right now.
The moment came late in the grueling, week long string of failures to get McCarthy confirmed as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. He’s favored by the majority of his caucus, but unfortunately Republicans won one of the slimmest-ever House majorities last November: 222. And well, 218 votes are required to confirm someone as Speaker.
This means dissenters have outsized power to derail business, and so it is that McCarthy’s primary obstacle has been a bloc of hard right representatives led by Gaetz and right wing Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert. The majority of this bloc — mainly supporters of the Jan. 6 insurrection and also, like McCarthy himself, election deniers — have bitterly opposed McCarthy’s candidacy for various, somewhat hard to explain reasons.
Their opposition delayed House business for the entire week, and that continued to be the case on Friday, when the 12th and 13th attempts to elect a Speaker failed. However, McCarthy and other leadership Republicans have made a series of drastic concessions the hard liners that effectively renders the Speaker position a figurehead position. And between the 13th and 14th votes, they apparently came to believe they’d finally secured enough of them to reach the required 218 votes.
But during the next attempt, Gaetz chose to delay his vote when his name was called. That meant he ended up voting last, at which point it was clear his would be the deciding vote. It certainly looks as though Republicans were convinced they’d won him over, because they were visibly surprised when he voted “present” instead of declaring for McCarthy.
McCarthy was filmed running over to Gaetz, where the two had a brief, apparently heated exchange. It’s unclear what was said, but as McCarthy walked off, Alabama Republican Mike Rodgers, who was visibly angry, started speaking to Gaetz. Rodgers then leaned in, at which point someone grabed him from behind and dragged him away. Drama!
We have no idea what Rodgers said to Gaetz, or what it was about his actions in the moment that prompted someone to physically restrain him like they were breaking up a bar fight. What we do know is that the week-long chaos, the repeated humiliation of Kevin McCarthy, and the clear evidence whatever else the newly minted Republican House majority will be, “governable” isn’t it, is hilarious.