House Speaker Kerfuffle Shows Republicans Cannot Lead

“It was Republican infighting that threw the House into chaos, and it was Republican in fighting that kept the house in chaos”

Kevin McCarthy confronts Matt Gaetz on the House Floor. Photo Credit: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

“On this vote the yeas are 216, the nays are 210, the resolution is adopted. Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table. The office of the Speaker of the House of the United States House of Representatives is hereby declared vacant.” With a thunderous bang of the gavel, it was over, history was made, Kevin McCarthy was ousted, and the House of Representatives was leaderless. 

Now, I know many of you are probably asking yourself, “How did this begin?” Well, dear reader, like all the questions you ask me, that is an excellent question, so let me attempt to answer it for you. 

When the Republicans took control of the House earlier this year after the 2022 midterm elections, they were tasked with finding a new Speaker. After 14 failed votes and many concessions, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) finally secured enough votes to become the 55th Speaker of the House on the 15th ballot. This was the first time in American history that it took more than one ballot to elect a speaker of the House.

He was facing stiff opposition from the far-right wing of his party known as the House Freedom Caucus, and in an attempt to curry their favor, he offered many concessions, including a change in the rules to allow any one Republican member of the House to introduce a resolution to vacate the position of Speaker. 

Fast forward to late May, after expending every extraordinary measure available, the United States was about to default on its debts. To avoid this, McCarthy negotiated a deal with President Biden, which in turn angered many far-right members of his party.

Fast forward once again to late September, funding for the government was about to run out, and Congress took up the yearly task of creating a new budget. The Freedom Caucus wanted to see a greatly reduced budget, but because of the divided Congress (Democrats control the Senate, while Republicans control the House), bipartisanship was paramount to keeping the government open. To avoid a government shutdown and buy more time to negotiate, the House passed a continuing resolution to fund the government for an additional 45 days. This move further incited many of the far-right hardliners, many of whom had publicly stated they would rather see the government shut down than negotiate with Democrats on the budget. One such Republican was Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, who, on October 2, filed the motion to vacate. On October 3, he and seven other Republicans, along with all Democrats, successfully removed Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House. 

This threw the House into chaos and ground the gears of the government to a halt, as no official business could be conducted without a speaker. Patrick McHenry, a McCarthy ally, was named Speaker pro tempore (he had very limited power and could not do anything aside from presiding over the votes for speaker), and the search for a new speaker was on. 

Two contenders emerged to fill the vacancy: House Majority Leader and self-ascribed “David Duke (former Grand Wizard of the KKK) without the baggage,” Steve Scalise (Louisiana) and House Judiciary Chairman, and “legislative terrorist” Jim Jordan (Ohio). In a secret conference vote, Steve Scalise beat out Jim Jordan and was chosen to be the Republican nominee for Speaker of the House. However, after failing to garner enough support within his party, Scalise withdrew his name before a full vote of the House was able to take place. 

The Republicans next nominated Jim Jordan to be the speaker nominee, but after three unsuccessful House floor votes, in which he lost support in each subsequent ballot, Jordan, too, withdrew his name. After Jordan, the Republicans named Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer their speaker nominee, but after only four hours, he also withdrew his name when it was evident he lacked support. After Emmer withdrew, little-known Louisiana representative Mike Johnson was chosen as the new Speaker nominee. 

Finally, on October 25, after 21 days of being without a Speaker, the House of Representatives picked Mike Johnson to be the 56th Speaker of the House, no House Republican voted against him. 

It was Republican infighting that threw the House into chaos, and it was Republican infighting that kept the House in chaos. 

One thing is clear: if you want Congress to work, elect Democrats. If you want Congress to be a clown show, elect Republicans.

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