“For Mr. McCarthy, who practiced a management style of doing and saying pretty much whatever it would take to get through the day, tomorrow finally arrived.”
— The New York Times (10/4/23)
Kevin McCarthy made history on Tuesday by becoming the first Speaker of the House to have his gavel taken away through a vote by his fellow Representatives. Following the unprecedented vote to remove McCarthy, Congress adjourned for the week because, quite frankly, nobody really knows what happens next.
Why was McCarthy ousted? How were Colorado Republicans involved, and how did others react? What happens when Congress reconvenes? Let’s dig in…
Why Did McCarthy Lose His Job?
There seems to be a general consensus that McCarthy’s historic #FAIL came down to two reasons: 1) McCarthy was transparently full of shit; and 2) There are too many House Republicans who are ungovernable lunatics.
McCarthy sought power for the sake of having power and fundamentally stood for nothing, which is why it took 15 votes to make him House Speaker in January. Privately or publicly, McCarthy told everyone what he thought they wanted to hear; this inevitably became untenable because there is no way to actually deliver on every promise he made. As Dana Milbank wrote for The Washington Post, McCarthy’s “only evident ideology as speaker had been personal ambition.”
Carl Hulse of The New York Times outlined how McCarthy managed to alienate pretty much everyone:
Mr. McCarthy practiced almost abject obeisance to the far right — right up to the moment they decided to take him down. He gave them concession after concession to win their votes to become speaker, then went back on some of the ones they cared about most, on spending, when they proved impossible to accomplish in a divided government…
…Mr. McCarthy had promised Democrats fair treatment and a role in governing, but then pushed intensely partisan legislation that they found detestable. He cavalierly launched an impeachment inquiry into the Democratic president when he found himself on shaky ground with his right-wing troops. He cut a spending deal with the White House, then reneged on it — all the while saying he was doing what he thought was right for the nation.
McCarthy’s other problem is one that is not unique to him: The Republican caucus is a circus.
Take a look at what Brendan Buck, a former top communications adviser to Republican House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan, had to say on MSNBC about his fellow Republicans:
“We are not, right now, fit for governing. We are a party much more made for being in the minority. We like to vote against things.
“Their problem is not really with the Speaker of the House. It wasn’t with Kevin McCarthy, it wasn’t with Paul Ryan or John Boehner. These guys just don’t like the realities of governing.
As Hulse added for the Times:
But in today’s Republican Party, doing the right thing is considered a transgression, not a virtue — a sign of unforgivable allegiance to the political establishment. That was the central problem for Mr. McCarthy, and for his eventual successor. House Republicans, beholden to a base that reveres former President Donald J. Trump and detests compromise, have become ungovernable. And it is doubtful that his precipitous downfall will break the fever.
There is a bloc of House Republicans who will brook no compromise even if it means shutting down the government and stirring chaos, as they wanted to do last weekend rather than accepting a spending compromise that kept the government open but excluded their priorities on border security and deep spending cuts.
The eight who brought down Mr. McCarthy are just a small fraction of the 221 Republicans who serve in the House, but they represent a broad and influential strain in the contemporary Republican Party, one that rewards lawmakers willing to confront Mr. Biden and Democrats and isn’t concerned with the consequences. Shutdown votes are good votes with that electorate.
“There seems to be a major political party now addicted to insurrection, rebellion, overthrow and not to governance.”
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland)
The Colorado Connection
Colorado Rep. Ken Buck (R-Greeley) was among the eight Republicans whose ‘YES’ vote on Tuesday sealed McCarthy’s fate. Buck said that he voted to oust McCarthy because the Speaker had reneged on promises made to Republicans in January regarding procedures for reducing government spending:
Of course, Buck has never proposed any serious solutions for how to reduce government spending that don’t include significant changes to programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security. Buck votes ‘NO’ on virtually every spending bill and leaves it up to someone else to figure out how to make it work.
Buck was praised by Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dave Williams for his vote to oust McCarthy. In an appearance on KOA Morning Radio today, Williams said:
“We applaud Congressman Buck for his principled and historic vote. Washington is broken. There needs to be some accountability. And this vote, you know, certainly represents that. So I think Congressman Buck is doing what he can to to adhere to the principles that he ran on and is trying to represent his district safely.”
Befitting the clusterf*** that is the Republican Party, however, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich publicly called for Buck’s head over a perceived lack of loyalty.
Dana Milbank of The Washington Post summarized the ridiculousness of the Republican response on Tuesday:
On the House floor, the Republican combatants seemed ill-equipped to defuse the latest crisis they had created. Indicted Rep. George Santos (N.Y.) lifted up his sweater to reveal to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) his SpongeBob SquarePants tie. Rep. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) played with her infant grandson. [Pols emphasis]
Boebert’s own vote on McCarthy’s ouster was equally absurd. She voted ‘NO’ on removing McCarthy, but immediately clarified that she was only a “No for now.” Boebert is no more principled than McCarthy himself. Naturally, she took to social media today to declare that getting rid of McCarthy was the right thing to do, nevermind her own vote.
Boebert called in today to George Brauchler’s KNUS radio show to offer more obsequiousness. Boebert told Brauchler that she thought the timing was wrong for such a vote but agreed that the conference needs new leadership. Here’s how she explained her, um, thinking:
“I wanted to see if we were going to be able to use this terrible 45-day C.R. [continuing resolution] that I voted against to actually get 12 individual appropriations bills. And at the end of that 45 days, if we were to fail again, then it would be time to remove [McCarthy] as Speaker.”
Remember, again, that Boebert voted ‘NO’ on removing McCarthy on Tuesday. Here’s what she went on to say on Wednesday:
“I think the vote was right. I think the move was right. For me, it was all about the timing of it.”
Acting House Speaker Patrick McHenry is trying to, um, stand tall while Republicans try to figure out their next steps. As The Associated Press explained:
Some members, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, have been broaching potential consensus candidates like Majority Leader Steve Scalise or Whip Tom Emmer who they see as bringing the conference together. Other names up for discussion include Rep. Kevin Hern, chair of the Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee and a favorite of the right flank of the party.
Once Republicans decide who to nominate for speaker, the House would have to vote as many times as it takes for a candidate to receive the majority of those present and voting for speaker. It can quickly become an arduous exercise, as it did in January when it took McCarthy an unprecedented 15 rounds to win the gavel.
Whoever becomes the next Speaker might not want to get too comfortable in their new office, however. As Dana Milbank wrote for The Washington Post:
It doesn’t really matter who Republicans choose to replace McCarthy, who announced late Tuesday that he won’t run again. Nobody will succeed in that role because the party itself is ungovernable…
…It’s just a matter of time until Gaetz — and the many others like him — render McCarthy’s successor a failure, too. This is all they know how to do. [Pols emphasis]
Finally, for a sense of just how unserious House Republicans can still act, there are several members pushing to nominate Donald Trump as Speaker.
We say it all the time, folks: Elections have consequences. Perhaps voters will realize in 2024 that House Republicans really aren’t all that interested in doing their jobs.
Author: Colorado Pols