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McCarthy Ousted, But What Has Been Solved?

U.S. House of Representatives fires its Speaker, Kevin McCarthy, for the first time ever, the GOP infighting rages on.

Kevin McCarthy, Republican Speaker, fired by House of Representatives
Photo by Gage Skidmore under CC BY-SA 2.0

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The ethos of a hardline group of Republican lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives increasingly seems to be reaching a Bannon-like, burn it all down first, ask questions later fever pitch.

Certainly that was the case with Tuesday’s ouster of Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, marking the first time in history the chamber stripped its speaker of his gavel.

But what has really been accomplished? McCarthy has announced he will not fight for his old job and the House has been catapulted into disarray. In the meantime, North Carolina Republican Patrick McHenry will serve as acting Speaker, but a successor to McCarthy has yet to be decided and no one seems to have any bright ideas. According to Republican Tim Burchett of Tennessee, who voted to jettison McCarthy this week, “I think there’s plenty of people who can step up and do the job.” Who might that be? He did not say.

GOP presidential contender Donald Trump also piped in, writing on his social media channel Truth Social, “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves – why aren’t they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our country?”

McCarthy’s rout, led by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz, comes in the wake of the former speaker’s strenuous efforts to avert a U.S. government shutdown last week, which involved working with both Republicans and Democrats to pass a stopgap measure that’s set to expire in mid-November (stay tuned for more drama next month).

Far-right conservatives voted to give McCarthy the boot amid intense discontent over the fact the stopgap bill holds funding at the same levels Congress set last year under Democratic control. That said, the measure withheld monies in support of Ukraine – over the objections of the White House and both parties in the Senate – which House Democrats said they only pushed through in order to keep the government open. (Any shutdown would mean closing government agencies and halting the pay of 1.5 million federal employees and two million members of the U.S. military.)

In a turbulent press conference late Tuesday, McCarthy said he had taken “a risk for the American public” by cobbling together a deal to prevent a government shutdown. He also took a moment to go after the Republicans who threw him out, saying the so-called “conservative” House rebels who led the way “don’t get to say they’re conservative because they’re angry and chaotic.”

McCarthy also had some select words for Gaetz himself, the ringleader behind his removal and the subject of a two-year sex-trafficking probe by the U.S. Department of Justice that was dropped earlier this year – and quietly taken back up again in July as part of a congressional ethics investigation.

Referencing why Gaetz opted to lead the charge, McCarthy said it had “nothing to do with spending” and that he’d refused Gaetz’s demands that he intervene in the ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation.

“I’ve seen the texts,” McCarthy said, “it was all about his ethics.”

If there is even a kernel of truth to that, then it is worth watching.