Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) praised former President Trump and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) for pushing him over the finish line and helping him secure the gavel.
He gave the two credit for convincing each of the six remaining Republican holdouts — of which Gaetz was one — to vote “present” on the 15th ballot, lowering the number of votes McCarthy needed to win.
Wisely, if a little unfairly, there was one individual McCarthy chose not to thank for helping his win his battle for Speaker of the House. CNN reported
Before the final vote, pandemonium erupted on the House floor after Gaetz waited until the very end of the 14th ballot to vote “present” when McCarthy needed one more “yes” vote. Stunned after believing he had the votes, McCarthy faced his most embarrassing defeat yet. McCarthy’s allies encircled Gaetz to try to find a way forward. McCarthy soon made a bee-line for discussion and started engaging Gaetz, too.
After McCarthy walked away from Gaetz, looking dejected, Armed Services Chairman Mike Rogers moved toward the conversation and lunged at Gaetz, having to be physically restrained by Republican Rep. Richard Hudson of North Carolina. Rogers, a Republican from Alabama who earlier in the week warned the GOP dissidents they would lose their committee assignments, told Gaetz he would be “finished” for continuing to wreck the speaker’s vote.
Representative Patrick McHenry, a loyal McCarthyite, moved to adjourn the chamber until Monday and a majority voted to adjourn when
with less than a minute left to go in the vote, Gaetz moved toward the front of the chamber, grabbing a red index card to change his vote on adjournment. Gaetz walked toward McCarthy, and the two briefly exchanged words. McCarthy then raised his hand and yelled out, “One more!” as he triumphantly walked toward the front of the chamber to change his vote, too. It was the GOP leader’s final negotiation capping an emotional roller coaster over the course of four days as he was held hostage by a narrow faction of his conference. Dozens of Republicans followed McCarthy and Gaetz to defeat the adjournment measure, and McCarthy’s victory, at last, was at hand.
The six Republican holdouts all voted present on the 15th ballot, giving McCarthy a 216-212 victory...
Gaetz changed his vote for some reason or another but it appears not to have been any additional concessions he gained from the cowardly and superficial McCarthy because Gaetz admitted “I ran out of things I could even imagine to ask for.” If those concessions had been sufficient for the Floridian to vote for McCarthy, he would already have done so. Instead, after denying a victory for the latter on the 14th ballot and voting for an adjournment which would have given the anti-McCarthy forces a chance to regain momentum over the weekend, Gaetz changed course.
We'll never know the reason definitively because unsurprisingly, no one wants to 'fess up. However, CNN correspondent Melanie Zanona (as seen at 4:59 of the video, with subtitles, below) has stated
And so Kevin McCarthy was completely dejected. We saw him walk up the aisle toward where Boebert and Gaetz were sitting and pleading with them to vote for him. He was in a moment of desperation.
Not to worry, Kev. Your muscle is on its way:
And then he saw Mike Rogers coming up from him behind the well, coming down the aisle. And this is the one- he's a chairman, uh, he's a close McCarthy ally. he has been growing frustrated and more frustrated with the holdouts all week. So that is important context. In fact, we are told that he had threatened to kick some of the holdouts off of their committee assignments if they didn't fall in line. So he was frustrated. he came down the aisle and sources told Annie Grier that he basically said "Matt, you're finished" to him and at that point, Hudson, another member, he came up behind him, sort of muzzled both and tried to hold him back so he wasn't able to speak any more.
Well played- so well played that one is tempted to wonder how Rogers, born in Indiana but raised in Alabama and representing one of its congressional districts, so effectively exhibited the ways of La Cosa Nostra, an organization always far less influential there than in the urban Northeast, Midwest, Florida, and Texas.
"Matt, you're finished" is so vague and threatening that Representative Gaetz probably was unclear what exactly Rogers was referring to, and didn't want to find out. And Representative Hudson holding Rogers back was a nice touch, a fine portrayal of a good cop, bad cop routine. It was almost as if it had been choreographed, which cannot be determined because cable news networks are disinterested in an event once the video becomes stale.
You can catch more bees with honey than with vinegar, the cliche runs. Not being a bee, Gaetz was insufficiently moved by the favors granted him by Kevin McCarthy and became motivated only when a southern colleague issued an unspecific threat of political, personal, or professional injury. "Everyone has a plan," Mike Tyson once noted, "until they get punched in the mouth."
Matt Gaetz got punched in the face and his plan went out the window, which may be a message for Democrats as they ponder how to deal with the new GOP majority in the House.