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The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

The student newspaper of Clark University

The Scarlet

Kevin McCarthy Delayed a Government Shutdown… and Then Got Himself Shut Down

The two-party system’s most frustrating problems were best illustrated in the Kevin McCarthy debacle.

Kevin McCarthy just got ousted from his role of Speaker of the House on October 3rd in an historic vote. Lisa Mascaro and Farnoush Amiri of the Associated Press report in their article “Speaker McCarthy ousted in historic House vote, as scramble begins for a Republican leader” that he is unwilling to run again, and leaves this decision up to the Republican Party to choose their leader. The sentiment was fairly split, with some Republicans saying that he kept his word but others saying he cannot be trusted. The ousting won out, however, with 216 voting to remove him and 210 voting to keep him. This has never happened in the United States before… so why now? Well, beginning simply: he was voted out for working with Democrats. October 1st at midnight was the deadline Congress had until the government shut down if no bill deciding the budget was passed. 

A government shutdown occurs when the national budget remains undecided. Although many programs have enough funding to at least continue throughout the year, some programs like the inspections of water facilities, loans to farmers, and other benefits would be at major risk. Regardless, the government must do its job in funding the programs in need of support. 

Sarah Ferris, Olivia Beavers and Jordain Carney of POLITICO write that McCarthy had to give up on a few things he was promising conservatives in order to get a bill passed. Though McCarthy was previously promising a stricter border policy and some spending cuts, Democrats wouldn’t have allowed it to pass through. Representative Matt Rosendale reportedly stated that, “You can’t form a coalition of more Democrats than you have Republicans who you’re supposed to be the leader of, and not think that there’s not going to be some serious, serious fallout.” Compromising was seen as the last straw for the Republican party, even when it meant keeping the government functioning properly. 

It appeared to be too easy to oust McCarthy. A historical vote cannot be just from one motion. Truthfully, it shouldn’t be that way, but McCarthy himself agreed to it. Brian Bushard of Forbes Magazine reported on the initial vote for the Speaker back in January and the concessions McCarthy made in his article titled “Kevin McCarthy’s Concessions: Here’s What He Gave Up To Win House Speakership.” It took McCarthy 15 tries to eventually be voted Speaker of the House. He made several concessions to the far-right wing of his party, including allowing them to have seats on the House Rules Committee. Yet, his biggest concession was agreeing to lower the amount of House members needed to motion a removal of the Speaker from five to one – allowing one particular representative, Matt Gaetz, to organize an ousting of him. 

The mostly anti-McCarthy wing of the Republican party is known as the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus is more conservative than the average Republican member of the House as reported by Drew Desilver of the Pew Research Center.It was also pointed out that the least conservative Freedom Caucus member still scores higher on conservatism than the median Republican member of the House. 49 members of the House have been identified with the Freedom Caucus; 22% of the House’s GOP population. It was to this ultra-conservative wing that McCarthy was forced to bow to. This was because the Freedom Caucus was able to derail the system that requires a majority vote for Speaker of the House.

The House has gone from one dilemma to another, since it cannot actually function without a Speaker, whose main responsibility is presiding over the House of Representatives. They also perform a number of other functions, including leading their party conference or caucus and nominating House members to the Committee on Rules and the Committee on House Administration. If a Speaker is not elected, a roll call will keep being initiated until one is eventually elected in. 

A member from the majority party and a member from the minority party are nominated for the position. However, other members can be nominated as well. A roll call vote is held in which the members-elect (as they are technically not full members until they are sworn in by the Speaker) call out the last name of the Speaker they are voting for. One can choose to say “present” meaning their vote will not be counted. Considering that the House has only a small Republican lead, a couple of Republicans defecting was unfavorable for McCarthy back when the original Speaker vote was occurring. 

A Speaker can win with votes that are lower than 218, as a “present” vote means the threshold is lowered. Back in January, McCarthy finally won Speaker of the House. He had previously lost several times because his detractors, the aforementioned Freedom Caucus, had put other members on the ballot. These votes kept McCarthy from reaching the threshold he needed, which is why he tried desperately to appeal to them.

In a growing age of polarization, the United States appears to be at a frustrating standstill. As of early October, we are without a Speaker of the House. Therefore, we are without a functioning House. The Republican party now appears to be divided among itself. This two-party system is barely operational, and if January’s vote is any indicator of how October’s vote will go, we will be without a functioning House for a while. 

Not to mention that this House cannot even pass a budget, its most crucial job, without throwing out a Speaker. I ask if it is even possible to be a “moderate” member of your party if you can so easily be swayed by a small radical section that demands more benefits? Let’s face it: politics is not as simple as the two-party system tries to make it seem. As we divide ourselves more and more across ideological lines, we will be forced to shake hands with people that should not have their hands shaken at all. 22% of the GOP has the entire House held at ideological gunpoint. Perhaps that is not so entirely democratic.

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