The House of Representatives removed Kevin McCarthy from the post of Speaker. This has never happened before in the history of America — all legislative activity has stopped.
It must be admitted that McCarthy’s situation had been rather precarious for a long time. He only got into the Speaker’s chair in January after the fifteenth (!) round of voting, thanks in part to a change in the rules that now made it easier to remove him. But last week, eight rebellious Republicans defied the party leader and supported a «discharge petition» put forward by Matt Gaetz, the scandal-plagued Florida congressman who has long irritated McCarthy like a thorn in his side. The entire Democratic Party faction was eager to join them. As the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries, said McCarthy was «unwilling to break with Trump-type extremism in an appropriate manner».
«Interim Speaker» Patrick McHenry, a North Carolina Republican, was appointed. But the figure of «interim speaker» is purely nominal; he will only preside over the election of a new speaker. No one knows how long the election will last — maybe days, maybe weeks. The situation is deadlocked: House rules dictate that lawmakers can’t take up any legislative business until a speaker is elected — even though a new funding deadline is looming in mid-November.
A contender for Speaker needs to be elected by a majority of the House of Representatives, and the Republicans have only a minimal margin there. And the Democrats will surely oppose any Republican candidate.
McCarthy himself believes: his fellow Republicans have decided to settle accounts with him for trying to negotiate with the Democrats on public financing.
«In today’s world, if you as a congressman don’t want the government to shut down, there are eight people who will chase you out of office as Speaker», McCarthy sadly stated.
The fact is that on September 30, the U.S. fiscal year expired, a new budget was not agreed upon, and there was a threat of a shutdown — a suspension of the federal government due to lack of funding. McCarthy faced a difficult choice — to show toughness and demand from Joe Biden’s administration to cut spending, which was insisted on by the extreme right forces in his party. But dragging out budget negotiations meant a shutdown, which would have seriously damaged both the U.S. economy and the reputation of politicians. Therefore, McCarthy put to a vote a document on temporary funding of the government for 45 days, in which he did not put any conditions to the White House. Almost half of the Republicans voted against this document, but it was supported almost unanimously by his Democratic opponents. McCarthy was doomed. Eight far-right Republicans joined Democrats to deprive their colleague of the speaker’s chairmanship by a vote of 216 to 210 — after McCarthy joined Democrats in passing a short-term funding bill to avert a government shutdown.
Wei Zongyou, a professor at the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, very accurately characterized the situation: «If the two sides cannot reach consensus and show restraint, and instead make differing political views an excuse to «crusade» against the opponent or launch a life-and-death struggle, it could lead the country into a stalemate or even plunge into civil war. The only consequence would be the destruction of the foundations of Democratic politics».
Many influential Republicans warn that the fight in the House of Representatives is undermining the party’s preparations for the presidential and congressional elections in 2024. Presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke out rather harshly on the social network Truth Social: «Why do Republicans always get into internal squabbles, why don’t they fight the radical leftist Democrats who are destroying our country?»
Ukraine is perhaps most saddened by McCarthy’s resignation. Politico reports that Ukrainian officials are concerned about future U.S. aid to Ukraine because of the speaker’s resignation. After all, there is no money for Kiev in the interim budget, including 6 of the 24 billion promised by Biden for next year. According to Politico, representatives of the Ukrainian authorities are in shock. The publication quotes Klympush-Tsintsadze, a member of the Verkhovna Rada, who calls McCarthy’s resignation a «catastrophe».
And if we take into account the heated conflict in the Middle East, where Israel has entered into a battle with Hamas, there is a sharp need to elect a speaker as soon as possible, because the U.S. otherwise cannot allocate additional aid to its staunch ally Tel Aviv. And this also scares Kiev, which realizes that it may receive less funds because of the conflict in the Middle East.
Naturally, the question immediately arose: who will replace McCarthy? There was talk of former US President Donald Trump, but he immediately made it clear that he has no ambitions to lead the House of Representatives, as he is focused on returning to the White House.
«If I can help with the election process, I will. We have a lot of people who would do a good job as Speaker. I’m focused on the presidency», Trump said.
But then, apparently, Trump remembered that the threat is worse than the execution, and word got out that he might still be elected speaker. Democrats trembled. And Trump continued to scare his political opponents by saying that, if that’s what his party needed, he was willing to temporarily become speaker of the lower house. But by law, Trump can’t become speaker, as it is illegal for anyone facing serious felony charges to hold a leadership position in the House of Representatives.
So who will succeed him? Let’s say right away: it is obvious that he will have to forget about his unlimited support for Ukraine. After all, for many American politicians, the issue of Ukraine has become highly toxic. It is possible that the new speaker will be a Trumpist, building a policy aimed at solving America’s domestic problems.
So far, two candidates are being discussed: the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, Steve Scalise, and the head of the House Judiciary Committee, Jim Jordan. However, neither of them is guaranteed a sufficient number of votes from their fellow party members. And Steve Scalise was recently found to have an aggressive form of blood cancer and is now undergoing intensive treatment. This is likely the reason Trump decided to endorse Jim Jordan instead of him. Another Republican congressman, Kevin Hearn, head of the moderate conservative group in the House of Representatives, is also considering running. He could pick up votes from both right-wingers and centrists who are unhappy with the right wing that removed McCarthy from office.
… An interesting detail: following McCarthy’s resignation, former U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi received an eviction notice from her office, Politico reports. Pelosi must go with her belongings to the exit and vacate the premises by Wednesday. The office will be turned over to the new speaker. Time is running out for Americans.