What Did the GOP Speaker Fight Get Us?

Gaetz acted. McCarthy fell. A new speaker. Nothing’s changed. 

By Jacob Reese


Three weeks ago, Mike Johnson (R-LA) ascended as Speaker, and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and company celebrated. I, too, was filled with relief as a tiresome intra-party fiasco concluded. But in the meantime, we have to accept that reality looks a lot like it did before McCarthy (R-CA) was ousted. A funding deadline is approaching and another clean continuing resolution– a bill without any budget cuts– is on the table. 


Anything New About This Speaker?

To his credit, Johnson is attempting to appease fiscal watchdogs with a “two-step” plan: something that McCarthy, to my knowledge, did not entertain. But the fact remains that Speaker Johnson will not, at least not any time soon, calm the storms of American fiscal policy. 

Gaetz was unequivocal in his rationale for removing McCarthy. “I don’t think voting against Kevin McCarthy is chaos,” he declared on the House floor. “I think that not passing single-subject spending bills is chaos. The fact that we have been governed in this country since the mid-1990s by continuing resolution and omnibus is chaos.” For Gaetz, the problem rested not only in McCarthy, the man of “multiple contradictory promises,” but also in the irresponsible spending he facilitated. For the American people, it’s the spending that counts, and it’s the spending that hasn’t and won’t change. 


Same As the Old Boss

Why? Because Johnson inherited the same system that McCarthy left. Joe Biden is still President. Chuck Shumer (D-NY) still runs the Senate. House Republicans still have a razor-thin majority. And the funding deadline keeps getting closer. 

Caught in the middle of an unfriendly incentive system, Johnson lacks satisfactory solutions. Either he advances an imperfect funding measure in order to avoid a disastrous shut down or capitulates to the unrealistic, albeit well-intentioned, calls for separate funding bills. Johnson– through no fault of his own– is operating under the same conditions that McCarthy did before him and achieving the same imperfect result. 


Follow the Money

Gaetz’s action also implicates fundraising efforts for congressional candidates. McCarthy has a proven track record of fundraising success; Johnson is relatively new to the game. Admittedly, it’s too early to judge the long-term effects of Johnson’s ability to fill the GOP war coffers, and his election as Speaker clearly set off small-dollar fireworks. Yet, Johnson undoubtedly lacks the experience, personal connections, and networks that McCarthy fostered throughout his nearly decade and a half tenure in GOP leadership. 

In the midst of a Presidential election cycle that promises to become divisive, House Republicans should be acting prudently to secure their majority rather than benching their star fundraiser in favor of an unproven rookie with potential. 


Future View

What do we make of this situation? A group of fiscal watchdogs with a vendetta against establishment leadership became blinded to political reality by the rhetoric of reform. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Gaetz in principle– omnibus spending and continuing resolutions are fiscally unsound. I do not challenge that Kevin McCarthy reneged on some of his promises. I also see exciting potential in Mike Johnson. But importantly, I recognize that stripping McCarthy of the Speakership was a tactical blunder made in pursuit of a strategic goal. 

Until Republicans regain the Senate or the White House, the Speaker cannot change the way Washington works. A prudent, conservative, response to this grim outlook would be to support Republican candidates through well-funded campaigns, arouse grass-roots support, and seek victory at the ballot box. As Congress debates government funding, it would do well to keep this in mind: overthrowing an electoral asset without a positive return on investment is anything but conservative. It’s simply a rebellion in vain.


About the Author

Jacob Reese is a sophomore political science major and Trustee Scholar. On campus, Jacob serves as an Associate Editor of the Grove City College Journal of Law and Public Policy and is a member of the American Enterprise Institute Executive Council, the GCC Federalist Society, RoundTable Honorary, and the “Wolverine” Marching Band. His interests range from politics and foreign affairs to church-state relations and political philosophy. This summer, Jacob interned with Cornerstone Law Firm, a general practice law firm based in Berks County, PA. He aspires to pursue a career in the legal or public policy arena.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the writer alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grove City College, the Institute for Faith and Freedom, or their affiliates.


  1. Carol Kemmerer on November 17, 2023 at 5:33 pm

    Well thought out and articulated. The author is a shining star on the horizon.