U.S. House Speaker Removed in Sign of Congressional Inability to Govern
They know the process of replacing him is going to be long and chaotic. They know it will lead to government dysfunction. They like dysfunction.
Former House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy was never a popular politician nor a trusted leader. It took him more than four days and 14 ballots to get elected as Speaker in the first place. He made radical promises to the extremist faction of his party, which included Rep. Matt Gaetz, to win their votes on the final ballot.
But McCarthy was a fool to trust Gaetz and the other members of the House “Freedom Caucus” in the first place. They were never serious people, and their weak support of McCarthy was always destined to be short-lived. Despite McCarthy’s strict adherence to a radical right-wing philosophy, Gaetz threw him overboard, making McCarthy the first House Speaker removed by a vote of their peers in the middle of their term.
McCarthy refused to learn the lesson the Joker sought to teach Batman in the film “The Dark Knight.” When Batman is trying to take down the gangsters, the mob hires the Joker to fight back, but the Joker burns the huge pile of money they had paid him for his services. As Batman tries to comprehend the Joker’s motivations, his assistant, Alfred Pennyworth (played by Michael Cain), says, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned with, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
Saying of a legislator in a national assembly that he can’t be reasoned with shouldn’t be considered a compliment. But it’s true of Rep. Gaetz, and that is precisely what happened here.
Gaetz and his friends in the radical right-wing caucus voted to remove McCarthy as Speaker because they like to watch the Congress burn. They know the process of replacing him is going to be long and chaotic. They know it will lead to government dysfunction. They like dysfunction.
Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican presidential candidate who supported removing McCarthy, said, “The point of removing the House Speaker was to sow chaos. … But the real question to ask, to get to the bottom of it, is whether chaos is really such a bad thing?”
Gaetz has always been more of a troll than a legislator. He views his position as a launching pad for television appearances and social media clicks. He uses his official powers just to make jokes and create controversy.
During McCarthy’s run for House Speaker eight months ago, Gaetz neither voted for McCarthy nor any of the other representatives running for Speaker. Instead, he voted for Donald Trump just to attract attention and show how much he adored the former president.
While Gaetz would have found an excuse to try to overthrow McCarthy no matter what, the immediate cause of his removal action was his outrage that McCarthy shepherded a bill through Congress to fund the government for a month with the support of Democratic legislators. Gaetz didn’t want the government to be funded because he wanted chaos. Enough Republicans agree with Gaetz that McCarthy, a Republican himself, was forced to rely on Democratic votes to get the bill passed.
Republicans only have a tiny majority in the House of Representatives, and enough of their members are so adamantly opposed to governing that they must rely on Democratic voters for even the simplest necessities of maintaining a government.
However, Republicans refuse to vote for a Democratic member to be House Speaker, so the Democrats are stuck out in the cold. McCarthy also refused to negotiate with the Democrats for their support, so they refused to offer him support when Gaetz challenged him. In fact, McCarthy didn’t even thank them for their necessary votes on his funding bill.
In the meantime, the Republican powers have nominated a couple of hardline partisan Republicans as the leading candidates to be the next House Speaker, so there is no chance they will attract Democratic votes either, and they will have a hard time corralling the votes of Republican nihilists.
The issue of government funding will come up again in November because, as usual, Congress just kicked government funding down the road for a couple of weeks rather than solve the problem for the long term. At that point, the House might still not have a new Speaker.