House Speaker Debacle

by Corey Kendig

Despite Republicans’ best efforts, a negative narrative is forming about the GOP’s ability to cooperate.

A vocal minority

The House Speaker debate has recently illuminated problems that have been plaguing the Republican Party since the early Trump years. Despite Republicans’ best efforts, a negative narrative is forming about the GOP’s ability to cooperate, and McCarthy’s struggle to get elected solidified this idea since the  vote for the Speaker of the House of Representatives was the longest since the Civil War and fifth longest in American history. Between the first and fifteenth vote, thirteen Republicans switched their vote for McCarthy, yet two Republicans still voted “present” in continued opposition to McCarthy’s election as House Speaker.

If you are tuned into congressional discourse, you are probably not surprised to know that congresswoman Lauren Boebert and congressman Matt Gaetz were two of these six “present votes.” Gaetz and Boebert have cemented themselves as thorns in the elephant’s side, and even after McCarthy’s victory they are committed to causing problems in the GOP. Gaetz has even called McCarthy “the biggest alligator in the swamp” and the “masthead of the lobbying corps.” Is this betrayal of leadership a sign of a turning point within the Republican movement, or is it a vocal minority who are alone in an attempt to overthrow leadership? While Republicans do have reason for concern over the drawn out vote for Speaker, the sophomoric stunt performed by Gaetz and others was simply a show in which Gaetz established himself as the front man.


Gaetz’s ploy

The House Speaker debate raised interesting questions, but its resolution left them unanswered. The eventual capitulation of the “present” voters was declared to be a leverage move in order to expedite the process of addressing rules that Gaetz, Boebert and company would like to see passed. But the truth lies a little deeper than policy. Policy issues can be smoothed over with cocktails, but this felt personal. In the previous paragraph I included two quotes from Gaetz about McCarthy. These quotes imply a problem with McCarthy himself and not the policy he presents. Gaetz wants to portray McCarthy as a shill of the elites while he claims the label of a Trumpian populist for himself. That may be why he was the only member of Congress to vote for Trump as speaker, voting three times for the former president.

Gaetz is a special case when compared to the rest of the Congress. The voting records of everyone else in Congress seem to follow a linear pattern. The plan appears to be to vote for Jim Jordan or Andy Biggs, then Byron Donalds, then back to Jim Jordan before the eventual compromise that took place. But there are exceptions to this rule. Even Byron Donalds, the second term Congressman who received the most votes for speaker other than McCarthy, had a mixed voting record that started by voting for McCarthy twice then voting for Jim Jordan once and then himself seven times before voting for McCarthy again. Yet Gaetz seemed to want to fight his own battles with his votes, so much so that Gaetz’s antagonism almost got him into physical altercations with other members of the Republican party. A Bloomberg article calls Gaetz’s fight as “Gaetz, 40, emerged as one of the most visible — and vilified — of the 20 members who withheld their support for McCarthy to negotiate changes that would weaken the speaker’s power, put limits on government spending and create seats on powerful committees for hardline conservatives.” I believe that Gaetz wanted to portray himself as a martyr for the cause by riling people up and putting himself at the front of this new splinter of republicans. It was a great act, but nothing more.

Gaetz was simply a pawn who was more than willing to take the publicity. But the pawn seems to want to reach the end of the board and be promoted to a queen. There is no immediate risk to the Party, but come 2024 the house may see more Anti-McCarthyites elected to Congress, which will make this conversation a bit more interesting.

Corey Kendig is a junior history and political science major from Marietta, Pennsylvania. Corey is engaged in political organizations on campus, such as being the president of GCC’s Young America’s Foundation, an exec member on the GCC’s American Enterprises Institute chapter, and the school’s law journal.

Corey writes as a freelance journalist for several publications. He has written for notable organizations such as The Federalist, College Fix, and James G. Martin Institute. This summer, Corey interned at the United States House of Representatives. He is an outreach fellow with the Institute for Faith & Freedom.