Kevin McCarthy overcame Andy Biggs, Eli Crane defiance to become House speaker

Rep. Kevin McCarthy finally won the House speaker's gavel in the early hours of Saturday morning after 15 rounds of voting, the most since 1859.

Six House Republicans, including Reps. Andy Biggs and Eli Crane from Arizona, voted "present" in the final vote. Doing so allowed McCarthy, R-Calif., to become speaker of the House of Representatives while staying true to their commitment to not vote for him.

Biggs and Crane joined Reps. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., Bob Good, R-Va., and Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., in voting present, lowering the vote threshold McCarthy needed to become speaker. By voting present as a bloc, the group of six allowed McCarthy to become speaker without voting for him. This ostensibly allowed them to save face in their opposition to McCarthy, allowing the business of Congress to commence without one or more of them having to change their votes in his favor.

"Following the election, while deals were being made in Washington, I traveled across the district talking to the people that I will now represent," Crane said Friday in a written statement. "I will never apologize for keeping my promises to the residents of Arizona’s 2nd district...Speaker McCarthy, I look forward to serving in the 118th Congress."

Biggs, who had a made a bid for the speaker's job himself, posted a video on Twitter Friday before the final vote explaining why he opposed McCarthy, and explained his motive. "I didn't ever ask for anything. I did not ask for a committee assignment. I didn't ask for any pieces of my legislation to be brought to the floor," he said. "I want good leadership ... "

McCarthy, who clinched the speaker's post with 216 votes, had to win the majority of votes. That shifts based on absences and "present" votes. If the full House had voted, McCarthy would have needed 218 votes. However, the group of six voting present lowered the threshold of votes McCarthy had to win.

After McCarthy assumed his role as speaker, House business officially could commence, including the swearing in of the members.

The House reconvened Friday night after two previous voting rounds earlier in the day. McCarthy believed he had the votes to win in the 14th round, but fell one short after Gaetz joined Boebert in voting present.

That led to a tense interaction between Gaetz and McCarthy, along with members of the Republican caucus that culminated in Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., putting his hand over the mouth of Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., and physically restraining him.

The four Republicans had voted that round for other candidates as speaker. Crane selected Biggs, who was also a candidate on Jan. 3 when the voting began, as speaker. Biggs picked Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, as he had in the 12th and 13th rounds. Crane had supported Jordan in the 13th round, after choosing Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Colo., in rounds 10 through 12.

After previously voting for other candidates, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., switched his vote to McCarthy in the 12th round. He was one of 15 members who flipped in the first round of voting Friday after further concessions from McCarthy that would significantly weaken the Speaker's power.

"After 11 votes against, I have cast my 12th vote for Kevin McCarthy, voting with Representatives Jim Jordan, Byron Donalds, Chip Roy, and with support from President Trump – because we all know that now is the time to fight the Biden administration and the new woke socialist Left," Gosar said in a statement. "The people wanted me to drain the swamp. The swamp is not a person. It’s the rules. The rules that govern the people. I changed the rules. I changed the swamp."

The rest of Arizona's Republican House members, Reps. Debbie Lesko, David Schweikert and Juan Ciscomani, voted for McCarthy as speaker in every round.

Arizona Democratic Reps. Ruben Gallego, Raúl Grijalva and Greg Stanton, along with the rest of House Democrats, never wavered from their support for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., for speaker.

Tara Kavaler is a politics reporter at The Arizona Republic. She can be reached by email at or on Twitter @kavalertara

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Kevin McCarthy overcomes Arizona GOP to become House speaker