McCarthy told reporters at the press conference that he was “a thousand percent” certain that he’d have the job for the full two-year term.
His bid for the speaker’s gavel had been in trouble since the November elections, in which Republicans fell well short of expectations of a so-called “red wave” that would give them solid majorities in both the House and Senate.
They won the House, but it’s there that the struggle over the direction of a party is playing out most vividly. The Republicans are divided between members from swing districts who have to court independent voters and hard-line conservatives with safe seats who’ve adopted Trump’s populist agenda.
The tide started to turn in favour of McCarthy once he and dissidents hammered out the contours of the deal, with 15 of the holdouts switching their votes to support him during the 12th voting round earlier Friday.
McCarthy, who was first elected in 2012, had said he anticipated the selection going to multiple rounds as a faction of ultra-conservatives pressed their demands for more power. He vowed he wouldn’t back down.
“I don’t have a problem getting a record for the most votes for speaker,” he said before balloting began.
He had to wait for two of his supporters to return to the Capitol to vote on Friday. Incoming Representative Wesley Hunt of Texas was away to meet his newborn child, and Representative Ken Buck of Colorado left Thursday because of a medical matter.
This is the second time McCarthy has hit obstacles in a quest for the speaker’s gavel. When Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, resigned from the House in 2015 after dealing with rebellions in his ranks, McCarthy was widely seen as a favourite to replace him. But he backed down in the face of opposition from his party’s right.
McCarthy, 57, spent much of last year trying to win over a faction of conservatives who had a list of grievances about House rules, ire over compromises with Democrats, and a lack of trust in the Californian’s claim to conservative credentials.