Don't Buy the Establishment's Spin on the House Speaker Fight

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

As of publishing time, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has lost five six votes in his bid to be House speaker and there seems to be no end in sight. There are around 20 Republican holdouts in the “never McCarthy” camp, and they’re showing no signs of budging.


Former President Trump’s last-minute endorsement failed to move the needle toward McCarthy, which led Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of Trump’s most staunch supporters, to admonish him on the House floor. “Let’s stop with the campaign smears and tactics to get people to turn against us, even having my favorite president call us and tell us ‘We need to knock this off,'” Boebert said on Wednesday. “I think it actually needs to be reversed. The president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, ‘Sir, you do not have the votes, and it’s time to withdraw.'”

Meanwhile, Republican establishment types are running around with their hair on fire, shouting about unity and warning that Republicans will pay a steep price unless they can show a united front in the early days of their House majority.


One way or another, this will all be over in a few days and we’ll all go back to binge-watching mindless dramas on Netflix and planning our Super Bowl parties. A month from now, Rep. Jim Jordan will be holding hearings that won’t result in any Democrats paying a price for their treachery during Trump’s presidency, the House will once again be spending money like drunken sailors, and Congress will continue to get next to nothing useful done for the American people. Lather, rinse, repeat. Delaying the start of the congressional session by a few days, or even a month, won’t matter one iota. By the time the 2024 election rolls around, no one will care that there was a protracted fight for House speaker in early 2023.


Related: As McCarthy Goes Down, Is a Fight for the Speaker’s Chair Really Such a Bad Thing?

Yet GOP Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel was all over the news yesterday, warning that “we’re doing exactly what the Democrats want.”

“As long as we’re fighting each other, we are not keeping our eye on the prize,” McDaniel said on Fox News. “I think we have to get the speakership settled and we have to go forward if we’re going to be successful in 2024 as a united party. And right now, this exemplifies exactly what the Democrats want to see from our party.”

Texas Rep. Anthony Gonzalez said that the 20 holdouts are “preventing this commitment to America” and declared that “now is the time for unity.”

“I think beyond the Republican Party there are people that want to see the country come together,” he added, suggesting that he might be willing to work with Democrats to get McCarthy elected. “These folks are beyond coming over and you have to find another path.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said that 10% of House members are “holding the 90% of their fellow Republicans hostage.”

“This is insane,” he said, “Kevin needs to stand strong.”


Calm down, Mike. They’re hardly beating each other with canes.

What we’re witnessing now is the messy, glorious republican form of government our Founding Fathers laid out in the Constitution. Many Americans are tired of the uniparty that exuberantly passes pork-laden omnibus spending bills in the dead of night and plays by Marquess of Queensberry Rules as our country plunges toward insolvency, immorality, and anarchy.

While establishment Republicans like Kevin McCarthy and Ronna McDaniel would like to keep the party’s dirty laundry hidden, the American people deserve to know how the sausage is being made. We need to know what’s being promised to Republicans who vote for McCarthy. There are rumors that he may try to bring Democrats over to his side, and Marcy Kaptur of Ohio is reportedly trying to cut a deal with him, which only increases distrust within the caucus.

McCarthy currently has 201 members on his side, which means he’s in the catbird’s seat. Among those 201 members, many have been promised plum committee assignments or other leadership roles, and they are not likely to risk his ire to support a weak minority candidate. At the end of the day, I think we’ll end up with McCarthy as speaker.

But no matter what happens, the beauty is in the process. If he wants to sway the 20 dissenters, McCarthy should show a path forward that could result in real change in the way the House conducts its business. He should commit to transparency and rules reform that will stop the practice of pushing through mammoth spending bills one minute before midnight at the end of the congressional session. Unfortunately, he’s shown no indication that he wants to change the status quo, and the 20 holdouts know that. So let’s have that fight.


In the meantime, enjoy the process, and thank God that you live in a country where we settle these things with words and not guns.




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