For the last two weeks, I’ve basically dedicated my column to discussing who could become the next Speaker of the House after the removal of Kevin McCarthy. As a political junkie, this unprecedented scenario has given me a goldmine of material to analyze and make wise remarks about. But as the process to select a Speaker drags on into its third week, House Republicans are nowhere close to rallying enough support for the next Speaker and it’s getting old fast. The infighting that has ensued within the House Republican Conference has exposed them as a group of dysfunctional ideologues who have no credibility to be leading one of the largest democratic legislative bodies in the free world.
Now, I had low expectations for the newly elected Republican majority coming into the opening of the 118th United States Congress. After all, the modern Republican Party is a party that continually denies the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, bashes their Democratic opponents as “radical liberals who want to destroy America” and rewards loyalty to a former reality television star who somehow became a world leader. Nonetheless, they won back control of the House in the 2022 midterms, though with a much smaller majority than many pundits predicted. They rode in on their high horse of their vague and misleading “Commitment to America” that promised to rid American voters of evil Democratic rule and “get the country back on track.” Their ambitions were almost as high as Trump’s ego as they entered Congress in January, and were determined to hit the ground running.
But their ambitions would fall faster than Joe Biden up a flight of stairs, as the normally simple process to elect a Speaker became a hard-fought and bitter battle that lasted four days. A group of Republican hardliners, dubbed the “Never Kevin” caucus, led a fierce opposition to McCarthy due to his status as a slimeball establishment shrill, a label that I can’t even disagree with. It took McCarthy 15 rounds of voting to win the gavel, with the final round occurring in the early morning hours of Jan. 7. The voting process featured numerous tense moments, including a heated incident when Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) had to be restrained by his peers when he went to confront the leader of the Never Kevin caucus, Matt Gaetz (R-FL) after the 14th round. Though McCarthy succeeded in becoming Speaker, the voting showed how fractured the Republican majority was and how extraordinarily difficult it would be to manage such a narrow majority to legislative success.
For the next nine months, McCarthy floated along without any serious threats of rebellion from the far-right wing of the conference. But tensions were boiling from within the group as they became increasingly dissatisfied with McCarthy’s leadership. The breaking point came when McCarthy passed a bipartisan emergency stopgap bill to prevent a government shutdown. For Republican hardliners, this was the last straw. Soon after this, Gaetz returned to the forefront of opposition by invoking a “motion to vacate” the speakership, a compromise provision that allowed McCarthy to win the gavel in January. All it took was eight members of the Republican Conference to vote with every House Democrat to remove McCarthy as Speaker, plunging the House into unprecedented chaos.
Since McCarthy’s removal, it has been an absolute dogfight among Republicans to determine who will serve as Speaker. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) initially won the nomination before withdrawing when it became clear he lacked the necessary support to win. Now, notorious hardliner Jim Jordan (R-OH) is the party’s nominee, but he also faces an uphill battle to the gavel. The conference is so torn and divided that it appears impossible that they will be able to unite around a single candidate for speaker. They’re a rudderless ship that’s sinking under its own weight of bitter divide and incompetence. If they can’t even lead themselves, why should Americans trust them in running a legislative body? They’ve done absolutely nothing to prove that they are capable of competent leadership and have made a mockery of themselves and the House.
Even once a new Speaker is hopefully selected, I highly doubt their ability to lead a deeply fractured majority to pass actual legislation. They’ll likely continue to fight amongst themselves about who’s more loyal to Trump, and keep bringing up baseless and overdone talking points about the “damage that Democrats have done to this country” that Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham spew every night. And at the first instance that the next Speaker passes a bipartisan bill, another right-wing rebel will just invoke the motion to vacate and leave the country without a Speaker again. I have zero reason to believe that the next Speaker will manage to serve for the rest of the 118th United States Congress and neither should the 54,506,136 Americans who voted for this Republican house of cards that has come tumbling down in spectacular fashion. Until the next election in 2024, we’re stuck with a house of dysfunction that I have no faith will be able to stand.