January 7, 2023 updates on Speaker Kevin McCarthy

By Adrienne Vogt, Andrew Menezes, Matt Meyer and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 5:26 PM ET, Sat January 7, 2023
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12:51 p.m. ET, January 7, 2023

Rep. Katherine Clark is now the highest-ranking Democratic woman in the House

From CNN's Kaanita Iyer

Rep. Katherine Clark speaks during a news conference at the Capitol on January 5.
Rep. Katherine Clark speaks during a news conference at the Capitol on January 5. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark assumed her role as House minority whip in the early hours of Saturday morning, becoming the highest-ranking Democratic woman in the chamber.

Clark is only the second woman after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to serve in one of the top two party leadership positions in Congress. Pelosi’s stint as speaker ended earlier this month.

“I ran for Congress to be a voice for women, families, and working people,” Clark tweeted in November following her election as the No. 2 House Democrat. “When I’m at the table, so are you.”

“I am humbled and honored to serve the American people as the @HouseDemocrats Whip for the 118th Congress,” added Clark, who ran unopposed.  

Clark joins a House Democratic leadership team that includes Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar, who said in a statement that Clark’s “voice as Whip will be essential as our Caucus fights back against Republican extremism and delivers a legislative agenda that will help us take back the House in 2024.” 

Clark served as assistant speaker in the previous Congress, then the party’s No. 4 position in the House. She first joined leadership in 2019 as vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.

A firm supporter of President Joe Biden’s agenda, Clark is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. She is an advocate of gun reform, Medicare for All and raising the federal minimum wage. In 2016, Clark joined then-Georgia Rep. John Lewis and others in staging a sit-in on the House floor to protest the lack of votes on gun control legislation.

She was among several Democratic congresswomen arrested by US Capitol Police in July during an abortion rights protest in front of the Supreme Court. 

“The extremist Republicans are determined to take us back in time and take away our rights. They can arrest me, but we won’t allow them to arrest freedom,” she tweeted.

Clark’s ascension to a top House leadership position comes less than 10 years after she entered Congress representing Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District, a Democratic stronghold outside Boston. She won a special election in 2013 to succeed Democrat Ed Markey, following his election to the Senate, and has comfortably won reelection ever since. 

Prior to entering Congress, Clark served in the Massachusetts state House and Senate. She also worked in the state attorney general’s office as a policy director and served on the Melrose School Committee.

1:00 p.m. ET, January 7, 2023

Newly sworn-in congresswoman says House speaker vote unfolded "just as it should"

Rep. Monica De La Cruz speaks with CNN on Saturday.
Rep. Monica De La Cruz speaks with CNN on Saturday. (CNN)

Freshman Rep. Monica De La Cruz, who was sworn in early Saturday morning after Kevin McCarthy clinched the House speakership, said Americans saw the voting process "play out just as it should."

The Texas Republican said that while "of course" lawmakers wanted to be sworn in on January 3, "you saw democracy play out over the last week and come to consensus in the wee hours of the morning, and now we're ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work."

"This is not a dictatorship where one person gets to decide everything for the entire conference. ... So we saw it play out just as it should," De La Cruz told CNN's Fredricka Whitfield on Saturday.

"This shows us that each individual voice is important, and every vote is important. So as a representative of my community, even being a freshman, we have a powerful voice when it comes to legislation and bills that are coming across the table and in front of Congress. And I think that just goes to show that it doesn't matter if you are a freshman or a vet ... our voice and our vote counts. And I think you saw the power of that yesterday and throughout the week where we had five freshmen who were standing against McCarthy, but eventually came over. So what we're going to see is the power of our vote in the [118th Congress]," she added.

The 118th Congress features a record-setting number of women at 149. Overall, women of color will also break a record for their representation this year -- within the House alone, there will be a record number of both Latinas and Black women serving.

De La Cruz is the first Republican and first woman to represent Texas' 15th District.

"I am just so honored to represent my community," she said.

10:52 a.m. ET, January 7, 2023

The House has a speaker. Here's what comes next

From CNN's Clare Foran, Melanie Zanona and Sonnet Swire

A worker replaces a sign over McCarthy's office on Saturday.
A worker replaces a sign over McCarthy's office on Saturday. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Now that a House speaker has been selected following a days-long stalemate and members have finally been sworn in, the chamber can look toward picking back up business and organizing GOP-led committees.

Every new Congress must pass a new set of House rules, and doing so will be the top of the 118th Congress’ to-do list when the House reconvenes Monday.

With House Republicans’ majority, comes a newfound power to set the agenda — investigative and legislative.

Legislative agenda: House Republicans will be limited in their ability to pass bills through Congress with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House — where the president can exercise veto power over legislation. Still, House Republicans will be able to push messaging bills that highlight their agenda.

In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview with CNN ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy outlined his plans for power.

Those plans include:

  • Tackling inflation
  • Rising crime and border security
  • He also left the door open to launching eventual impeachment proceedings, which some of his members have already begun to call for

There will also be some must-pass policy issues — like funding the government — that will test the ability of Republicans and Democrats to work together.

Read more about what Republicans plan to do with their new House majority here.

10:20 a.m. ET, January 7, 2023

Hakeem Jeffries officially becomes the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress

From CNN's Shawna Mizelle

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries speaks in the House chamber early Saturday morning.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries speaks in the House chamber early Saturday morning. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Hakeem Jeffries made history as the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress, addressing the 118th Congress for the first time in the early hours of Saturday morning.

“As John Lewis would sometimes remind us on this floor, we may have come over on different ships but we’re all in the same boat now,” the New York Democrat said, referencing the late civil rights legend and longtime congressman.
“We are White. We are Black. We are Latino. We are Asian. We are Native American. We are Christian. We are Jewish. We are Muslim. We are Hindu. We are religious. We are secular. We are gay. We are straight. We are young. We are older. We are women. We are men. We are citizens. We are dreamers,” he continued. “Out of many we are one. That’s what makes America a great country. And no matter what kind of haters are trying to divide us, we’re not going to let anyone take that away from us. Not now. Not ever.”

Jeffries’ position was made official after the conclusion of a prolonged floor fight that culminated in Republican Kevin McCarthy becoming House speaker. While Republican quarrels prevented the election of a new speaker for days, ultimately going to 15 rounds of voting, Democrats displayed unwavering support for Jeffries, who consistently earned votes from all 212 members of his caucus as Republicans split their votes among multiple lawmakers.

Jeffries now leads the minority party in the House, succeeding California's Nancy Pelosi, who served as speaker in the prior session of Congress when Democrats held the majority. In addition to being the first Black lawmaker to attain such a position, Jeffries is also the first person elected to lead House Democrats to be born after the end of World War II.

10:14 a.m. ET, January 7, 2023

Dramatic reversals and fighting on the floor: How the historic contest for the speaker's gavel came to an end

From CNN's Melanie Zanona, Manu Raju, Annie Grayer, Lauren Fox and Jeremy Herb

US Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, points at Kevin McCarthy after McCarthy confronted him over his "present" vote on the 14th ballot Friday.
US Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, points at Kevin McCarthy after McCarthy confronted him over his "present" vote on the 14th ballot Friday. (Alex Brandon/AP)

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz strode into House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s office on Monday night with a list of demands. Among them: The chairmanship of a key House Armed Services subcommittee.

McCarthy rejected the offer. That decision set in motion a chain of events that left Gaetz and McCarthy locked in open confrontation on the House floor late Friday night. Gaetz, McCarthy’s staunchest opponent, dramatically denied the California Republican the final vote he needed to become speaker – then Gaetz and the last holdouts abruptly changed course allowing McCarthy to win the speaker’s gavel on his 15th attempt.

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. His 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, House 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, an Alabama Republican who earlier in the week had warned the GOP dissidents they would lose their committee assignments, told Gaetz he would be “finished” for continuing to wreck the speaker’s vote.

Nearby, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia was trying to convince Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana, another McCarthy holdout, to take her cell phone and speak to former President Donald Trump, who was on the line.

US Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, a Republican from Georgia, holds a phone with the initials "DT" on the screen on Friday night. Her spokesman confirmed it was former President Donald Trump on the phone.
US Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene, a Republican from Georgia, holds a phone with the initials "DT" on the screen on Friday night. Her spokesman confirmed it was former President Donald Trump on the phone. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Finally, the House clerk announced for the 14th time that no one had the votes to be speaker. Republicans moved to adjourn the chamber until Monday. As the vote timer counted down, 218 Republicans had voted yes, a majority that would have sent McCarthy home for the weekend and left the House in paralysis at the hands of Gaetz and his allies.

But 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.

Read a full timeline of the tumultuous week here:

10:36 a.m. ET, January 7, 2023

McCarthy gives Trump credit for victory: "He was all in"

From CNN's Manu Raju and Morgan Rimmer

Newly elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy thanked former President Donald Trump for helping him get the votes, telling reporters: "I don’t think anybody should doubt his influence."

"He was with me from the beginning — somebody wrote the doubt of whether he was there — and he was all in. He would call me and he would call others. And he really was — I was just talking to him tonight — helping get those final votes."

McCarthy, who spoke with Rep. Matt Gaetz on the floor between the 14th and 15th ballot, told CNN’s Manu Raju: "At the end of the night, Matt got everybody there from the point that nobody voted against the other way, so it actually helped unite people."

The new House speaker also thanked some of the core negotiators by name — Reps. Garret Graves, Patrick McHenry, Bruce Westerman, Scott Perry, Chip Roy and French Hill.

House drama: McCarthy said he is "1,000%" confident he will serve out his term, even with the new one-person threshold on the motion to vacate.

He also dismissed concerns that tonight’s drama on the floor is a taste of what is to come in the House over the next two years.

"I think by having the disruption now, really built the trust with one another and learned how to work together," he said. "What we’re going to have to find in our mindset is that we have to frontload. We have to think about and work on the bills with a microcosm of the conference before we even start writing it. And that’s really what we learned here."

10:21 a.m. ET, January 7, 2023

118th Congress sworn into office, House is adjourned until Monday

From CNN's Kristin Wilson

McCarthy swears in members of the House on Saturday.
McCarthy swears in members of the House on Saturday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

Members of the 118th Congress were sworn in early Saturday morning after days of deadlock in the House speaker election that prevented them from assuming their roles.

The new Congress features a record-setting number of women and several history makers, from the House's first Gen-Z lawmaker to the longest-serving woman in congressional history.

Newly-elected House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was sworn in before the members, and now Congress can resume business.

The House is adjourned until 5 p.m. Monday.

The chamber is expected to vote on a House Rules package Monday.

10:50 a.m. ET, January 7, 2023

Biden congratulated McCarthy on speakership, saying he's prepared to work with Republicans

President Joe Biden issued a statement congratulating Speaker-elect Kevin McCarthy on his win.

In his statement, the president said:

“Jill and I congratulate Kevin McCarthy on his election as Speaker of the House. As I said after the midterms, 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. Now that the leadership of the House of Representatives has been decided it is time for that process to begin.”

10:51 a.m. ET, January 7, 2023

"Now the hard work begins," McCarthy said in first speech as House speaker

nhis first speech as House speaker, Kevin McCarthy told his colleagues, "Now the hard work begins."

"What we do here today, next week, next month, next year, will set the tone for everything that follows," he added.

McCarthy also used the remarks to "talk directly to the American people."

"As speaker of the House, my ultimate responsibility is not to my party, my conference, or even our Congress," McCarthy said. "My responsibility, our responsibility, is to our country."

CNN previously reported that McCarthy denied that Rep. Matt Gaetz was offered chairmanship of a subcommittee in exchange for his "present" vote on speaker that ultimately helped him secure victory.

“No one gets promised anything,” McCarthy said.