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  • Seth Skaff

Congress in Chaos

For the first time in the history of the United States, the Speaker of the House was fired, but this was a result of months of conflict.

After narrowly winning the House of Representatives in the 2022 Election, the Republicans were expected to vote their leader, Kevin McCarthy, as speaker. A small group of far-right Republicans, however, voted for an array of alternative candidates, including Donald Trump, to prevent McCarthy from becoming speaker. A majority is needed to elect a speaker, and the group was able to prevent McCarthy from reaching that majority. After a few days of constantly voting and no Congress, McCarthy and the group reached a deal that gave him enough votes to become speaker, but at the cost of making it easy to fire him; only one representative was now needed to call for a vote to remove him.

Tensions grew between the far-right Republicans, most notably Congressman Matt Gaetz, and then-speaker McCarthy when the House needed to vote to raise the debt ceiling to prevent the government from defaulting. The bill that McCarthy brought forward slightly cut spending, but not enough to satisfy Gaetz and many other Republicans. The bill ended up passing with more support from Democrats than Republicans. Many experts agree that Biden won the negotiations.

Losing negotiations became a trend for McCarthy when the federal government needed to pass appropriation bills to prevent the government from shutting down. The far-right Republicans again wanted spending cuts that McCarthy was not able to provide. This forced him to reach across the aisle and get rid of all the spending cuts that he initially proposed. The bill passed with every single Democrat and around two-thirds of the Republicans.

The two failed negotiations angered Gaetz, especially as polling showed that most people would blame a default or shutdown on Biden, implying that McCarthy had leverage that he should have used to lower spending. In addition to that, other parts of McCarthy’s deal to become speaker, including congressional term limits, never made it to fruition. On October 3rd, Gaetz filed a motion to vacate the chair while insulting the enormous debt and McCarthy for being disingenuous. Every Democrat and eight Republicans voted to vacate the chair, meaning that Kevin McCarthy was the first Speaker of the House to be removed.

Shortly after, McCarthy announced that he would not try to win his job back contrary to expectations; six congressmen, however, still endorsed him for the position. Congressman Steve Scalise narrowly won the GOP nomination for speaker, but that was fruitless because Republican Congressmen do not have to vote for the nominee. He is the representative of Louisiana’s first congressional district and is the majority leader of Congress, which is usually the next in line for speaker. He was backed by more moderate and pro-establishment candidates in addition to most candidates in vulnerable seats, including Mission Viejo’s representative, Young Kim. However, many anti-establishment Republicans announced that they will not vote for him during the official vote in Congress, so he dropped out to avoid a repeat of January.

The anti-establishment Republicans support Congressman Jordan. He represents Ohio’s fourth congressional district and founded the far-right House Freedom Caucus. The anti-McCarthy crowd was mostly part of this caucus, although Jordan voted for McCarthy in January, and against the motion to vacate last week.He is running on his ability to fight with his narrow majority and win negotiations and is endorsed by President Trump.

The next speaker is uncertain to experts, but they are certain that the drama among the Republicans in Congress will not bode well for them in the 2024 election, especially with such a narrow majority. When the GOP won their narrow majority in 2022, McCarthy promised to fight Joe Biden and the Democrats; he finished his short speakership only fighting the members that made up his majority.


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