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Kevin McCarthy pleaded with Florida Republican Matt Gaetz to change his “present” vote on the House floor late Friday night so that the historic battle for the House speakership could finally end after four days of gridlock.

Gaetz and Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert voted “present” on the 14th ballot, signaling a softening of their anti-McCarthy stances, but it wasn’t enough to hand McCarthy the gavel as tensions rose inside the chamber. 

Adding to the drama, Gaetz skipped his turn in the role call and waited until the end to cast his present vote. 

With 216 votes, the California Republican was one vote short of becoming House Speaker. He and top ally Patrick McHenry of North Carolina walked over to where Gaetz was seated and pleaded with him for several minutes to change his vote. 

Gaetz stood firm. 

In a wild scene, Mike Rogers of Alabama had to be restrained by another lawmaker as he appeared to lunge angrily toward Gaetz. 

By that point, McCarthy seemed to realize that the negotiations weren’t getting anywhere and he walked back toward his seat with an irritated expression on his face. 

The heated moment between Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy during the 14th vote for House speaker.
The heated moment between Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy during the 14th vote for House speaker.
Rep. Matt Gaetz talks to Rep. Kevin McCarthy after voting "present" during the 14th House speaker vote Friday night.
Rep. Matt Gaetz talks to Rep. Kevin McCarthy after voting “present” during the 14th House speaker vote Friday night.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, talks with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., during the 14th round of voting for speaker in the House chamber as the House meets for the fourth day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Gaetz again was a holdout on Friday night.


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WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: U.S. Rep.-elect Matt Gaetz (R-FL) looks at House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) after Gaetz voted "present" in the House Chamber during the fourth day of elections for Speaker of the House at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 06, 2023 in Washington, DC. The House of Representatives is meeting to vote for the next Speaker after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) failed to earn more than 218 votes on several ballots; the first time in 100 years that the Speaker was not elected on the first ballot. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)


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McCarthy flipped 15 previous GOP holdout votes following the 13th ballot, leaving Andy Biggs of Arizona, Boebert, Gaetz, Eli Crane of Arizona, Bob Good of Virginia and Matt Rosendale of Montana as the remaining GOP opposition to his speakership.

Biggs, Crane, Good and Rosendale remained in the anti-McCarthy camp, with Crane and Rosendale voting for Biggs, and Good and Biggs voting for Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).

Before the House reconvened, Gaetz told Fox News that he was “running out of things to ask for” from McCarthy.

McHenry, who nominated McCarthy on the 14th ballot, said before the vote that McCarthy has “grown as a leader” during this week’s turmoil.

“He’s relentless. The man does not quit,” McHenry said, adding that McCarthy led the Republicans back to the majority in the House and is the “right person to lead us over the coming two years.”

The House will now vote on whether to recess until Monday at noon. 

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