Holy crap, did we really just watch that happen? In a historic first, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to oust the speaker via a vote of the chamber. In the past, endangered speakers like Paul Ryan and John Boehner opted to quit or not run for reelection rather than face the ignominy of losing a vote by their peers.
But not former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who dared rebel Rep. Matt Gaetz to oust him. As “The Wire’s” Omar Little said, “You come at the king, you best not miss,” and Gaetz’s aim was true. With the help of gleeful Democrats, happy to pay McCarthy back for a legitimate list of grievances, McCarthy narrowly lost the vote 216-210, two votes more than the magic number of 214. It was only the second time in American history such a vote was attempted, and the first time it was successful.
This is, in the end, the ultimate Leopards Ate Face story.
It was clear from the very beginning of this House term that the Freedom Caucus was a nihilist group intent on tearing down the institution. They were ungovernable from the beginning, yet McCarthy, in a Faustian bargain, surrendered to them in order to achieve his big dream of holding the speaker’s gavel. And he did! He even got to stand behind President Joe Biden for a single State of the Union. But in the end, all it bought him was a historic humiliation.
Was it worth it, Kevin?
We are now in uncharted territory. Joan McCarter wrote about what could happen next.
One likely outcome is a vengeful effort by the majority of House Republicans to expel Gaetz from the House. Gaetz used Democratic votes to oust McCarthy. It would be hilarious if Republicans then use Democratic votes to oust Gaetz. That’s bipartisanship we can all believe in! Democrats will happily assist Republicans in ousting any Republican they want, making the slim Republican House majority even slimmer.
But before we get there, Republicans will need to figure out how to elect a new speaker. Will McCarthy make another attempt? He certainly can’t do it with Republican votes, and if he didn’t cut a deal with Democrats to save his skin on Tuesday, why would he do so to get elected a second time? Is there another Republican that can unite the two Republican factions that clearly loathe each other?
Given the slim Republican majority, can Democrats somehow engineer a coup, getting Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries elected speaker with the assistance of rebel Republicans? Over two dozen Republicans represent Biden-won districts. They wouldn’t even have to vote for Jeffries; they could just be unavailable for a day.
Jeffries is clearly open to the possibilities, as his latest statement shows.
And heck, it’s clear that the Freedom Caucus longs to be in the minority. Their grift is so much more effective when facing off against a Democratic speaker, and as a bonus to the racist MAGA base, Jeffries is Black. They can raise a ton of money off being in the minority. It might literally benefit them to engineer a Jeffries speakership.
As for McCarthy, good riddance. Republicans are unable to take responsibility for their own actions, so the likes of former Rep. Tom Cole, Rep. Patrick McHenry, and Republican operative Brendan Buck were sure to claim it was Democrats that were sending our nation into turmoil because they wouldn’t bail McCarthy out. Democrats had no reason to help McCarthy, and he never offered them a deal to protect him. It’s always someone else’s fault with them!
Still, all Democrats had to do was point to McCarthy’s actions on Jan. 6, and his sucking up to Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago days later, at a time when Trump was at his most politically vulnerable. McCarthy worked tirelessly to discredit the Jan. 6 committee, and he’s been complicit in the sham Biden impeachment inquiry—ironically designed to placate the same Republican nihilist caucus that ultimately ousted him. McCarthy also reneged on the debt-limit deal he made with Biden earlier in the year, and this weekend, he went on national TV to blame Democrats for wanting to shut down the government.
McCarthy is a pathetic man, groveling to the worst of his party, all in the raw pursuit of power. And in the end, he got exactly what everyone expected.