It took 15 votes and a near a near fistfight, but after a string of humiliating losses, Kevin McCarthy managed a humiliating victory. He has the résumé entry he’s been working toward for years: speaker of the House. Luckily for him, he doesn’t seem to care about anything but the title—because, after all of the concessions he made to get the title, he sure won’t be wielding much of the power generally presumed to go with it.
In the twelfth vote he lost for speaker, McCarthy flipped 13 out of the 20 Republicans who had voted for other candidates the first 11 times. That left seven holdouts, of whom he needed to pick up three. On the 15th vote, he did that, after the seven finally squeezed everything they could out of him.
Before he could pick up any of those votes, McCarthy had agreed to a single-member threshold to force a vote on tossing him out as speaker, among other significant concessions, the full details of which aren’t fully known. But given that his first couple rounds of concessions hadn’t worked, the one that flipped most of his opponents must be significant, in a scary way. Scary like making the Freedom Caucus happy with his plans for holding the global economy hostage in a debt limit fight.
Let’s just pause to send this personal message: “Way to go, Kevin! Round One of your humiliation is over, and you are speaker of the House, as you have long yearned to be. Now on to the part where you get humiliated again and again thanks to everything you bargained away and the fact that everyone knows you have no meaningful sway over your conference.”