Rep. Burchett: Miscommunication to blame for rowdy House chamber

Tennessee Republican Tim Burchett said the heated discussion was a result of miscommunication, but part of healthy debate.
Tennessee Republican Tim Burchett said the heated discussion resulted from miscommunication but was part of healthy debate.
Published: Jan. 8, 2023 at 9:07 AM CST
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WASHINGTON (WVLT/AP) - On Saturday, California Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected House speaker on a historic 15th ballot, but not without bringing national attention to one particular moment of heated discussion.

“My father always told me, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” McCarthy told cheering fellow Republicans.

McCarthy took the oath of office once finally elected, and the House could swear in newly elected lawmakers who had been waiting for the chamber to open, the Associated Press reported.

Previous Coverage: McCarthy elected House speaker in rowdy post-midnight vote

After four days of ballots, McCarthy flipped more than a dozen conservative holdouts to become supporters.

However, the chamber didn’t go through all the rounds of voting calmly. On the 14th ballot, McCarthy fell short by one vote, causing the chamber to erupt and become unruly, which still has the nation buzzing and Americans wondering what’s to come.

McCarthy stood up and walked down the aisle to the back of the chamber and confronted Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, sitting with Colorado Republican Lauren Boebert and Tennessee Republican Tim Burchett, which gained attention from witnesses throughout the chamber.

While the audio was unheard, it can be seen that words were exchanged and fingers were pointed. The AP, however, reported he was asking Gaetz to change his vote from “present” to “McCarthy,” to which he said no.

It continued as, at one point, Republican Mike Rogers of Alabama, shouting, approached Gaetz before another Republican, Richard Hudson, physically pulled him back. Reports stated that Rogers told Gaetz he would regret his decision, as others in the chamber watched in disbelief.

Previous Coverage: Chaos in the House: McCarthy’s plea, and begging for votes

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., left, pulls Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., back as they talk with Rep....
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., left, pulls Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., back as they talk with Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and other during the 14th round of voting for speaker as the House meets for the fourth day to try and elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. At right is Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“Stay civil!” could be heard throughout the chamber as tensions peaked.

Congressman Burchett, who was in the middle of the small altercation, blamed the rowdiness all on miscommunication. He told WVLT News that things became heated when Gaetz opposed McCarthy, saying he first wanted to confirm certain House rules were changed before casting his final vote.

“Yet, Matt was not given the opportunity to fully vet those rules before he voted on the speaker, and he’d asked for an adjournment,” Burchett said. “He could do that, and there was a miscommunication, I think with a staffer, and they had gone back and forth, so he said, ‘fine, I’ll just, I just won’t vote for McCarthy, and we’ll stay here all night.’”

Burchett also said that the viral moment of discussion was a result of healthy and necessary debate among lawmakers.

“As a matter of fact, in the last four days, we’ve had more debate than I’ve had the last four years in Congress,” Burchett said.

Now that McCarthy had secured the votes he needed, he came into the chamber as a weakened speaker, having given away some powers.

However, the AP reported he could also be tabbed as a survivor after winning one of the more brutal fights for the gavel in U.S. history. Not since the Civil War era has a speaker’s vote dragged through so many rounds of voting.

Previous Coverage: GOP’s McCarthy rejected for House speaker — again and again

The most extended fight for the gavel started in late 1855 and lasted for two months, with 133 ballots, during debates over slavery in the run-up to the Civil War, according to the AP.