Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) addresses the House of Representatives for the first time after being elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in a late night 15th round of voting on the fourth day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 7, 2023.
Jon Cherry | Reuters
Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy took the gavel of the chamber after a bruising weeklong battle within his own party, promising to carry out a conservative, America-first agenda, tackling the immigration crisis at the Mexican border, cutting back funding at the IRS and fixing “woke indoctrination in our schools.”
After 14 failed votes since Tuesday, the California Republican was able to overcome opposition after making extraordinary concessions to a small bloc of far-right holdouts who refused to support his speaker bid.
McCarthy laid out an ambitious plan in addressing the 118th congressional session early Saturday morning, saying he wants to “be the check and provide some balance” to President Joe Biden’s policies. He said the first legislation he plans to tackle will repeal funding for more than 87,000 new IRS agents. He highlighted immigration reform as a top priority, saying the Republican-controlled House will hold some of its first hearings of the year at the Southern border.
“No more ignoring this crisis of safety and sovereignty,” he said. “We must secure our border.”
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) bangs the Speaker’s gavel for the first time after being elected the next Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in a late night 15th round of voting on the fourth day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 7, 2023.
Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters
McCarthy claimed he will pass bills fixing “urgent” problems in the nation with an America-first approach. In addition to immigration, he said he wants to address “America-Last” energy policies and “woke indoctrination” in schools, noting that children come first and should be taught to “dream big.”
He added that he will also plan to address long-term challenges like debt and the Chinese Communist Party, and he affirmed his commitment to law enforcement and criminal prosecution.
McCarthy said the tense showdown on the House floor this week was proof that he is not someone who gives up easily.
“You know – my father always told me: It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” he said. “And now we need to finish strong for the American people.”
Though his election marked the end of a long week and night in Washington, McCarthy said it was also a new beginning for the nation.
Republican members-elect celebrate as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is elected Speaker of the House in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 07, 2023 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images
Biden congratulated McCarthy on his election as House Speaker in a statement issued shortly before 1 a.m. ET.
“Jill and I congratulate Kevin McCarthy on his election as Speaker of the House,” said Biden. “I am prepared to work with Republicans when I can and voters made clear that they expect Republicans to be prepared to work with me as well,” he added.
Other Democratic leaders were less congratulatory following McCarthy’s victory.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a tweet Saturday that “Speaker McCarthy’s dream job could turn into a nightmare for the American people.”
House Democrat Cori Bush of Missouri said the GOP elected a speaker who enabled the violent insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“McCarthy sold out his gavel like he sold out our democracy—to white supremacist insurrectionists,” she said in a tweet Saturday. “That’s not leadership.”
In a press conference early Saturday morning, McCarthy thanked former President Donald Trump for his support and said he was crucial in securing the final votes McCarthy needed.
“I don’t think he should, anybody should doubt his influence,” McCarthy said. “He was with me from the beginning.”
Trump publicly voiced his support for McCarthy on his social media platform Truth Social Saturday. The former president said the Republican Party came together and that it was “a beautiful thing to see.”
“The ‘Speaker’ selection process, as crazy as it may seem, has made it all much bigger and more important than if done the more conventional way,” he said. “Congratulations to Kevin McCarthy and our GREAT Republican Party!”
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell also shared support for McCarthy Saturday, saying in a tweet that Senate Republicans look forward to working with him.
McCarthy’s first job as speaker was to swear in the other 433 members of Congress, who had been in limbo as members-elect since Tuesday, when the 118th Congress first opened. Once all the new members were sworn in, the House approved the new package of rules that McCarthy negotiated with hard-right Republicans.
McCarthy said negotiating was difficult given the slim margins in the majority, but that his victory shows that the Republican party can work together.
“I think what you will see by having this now, we’ve worked out how to work together,” he said.
— CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report