The man who lost by winning

Gilead

Speaker of the House of Representatives


Fig. 1. Photograph credited to Office of Congressman Kevin McCarthy, date inconsistent with title but given as November 9, 2022, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

This particular drama is over. But is it really?

The deals [Kevin] McCarthy struck with a group of fewer than two-dozen hard-line Republicans will empower the far right of his party ahead of a congressional term that promises contentious battles over funding the federal government and increasing the debt ceiling.

“And so one of the strongest House Speakers in American history is succeeded by what is likely to be one of the weakest,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted early Saturday. . . .

The nature of McCarthy’s final bargain was not immediately apparent. But the rules package House Republicans hope to pass next week will reportedly allow a single member to force a vote to oust the speaker.

The far right also won seats on the powerful Rules Committee for members of the House Freedom Caucus and their allies. The panel, which controls how debates are conducted and bills advance in the House, is traditionally filled with allies of the speaker.[1]

Now the House of Representatives has to adopt[2] the rules that Kevin McCarthy agreed to.[3] And if it does, it’s hard to see what McCarthy has actually won.

[Kevin McCarthy] ceded so much to foes — effective veto power over must-pass legislation, greater say over committee assignments, allowing a sole dissident to trigger a vote on his ouster — that McCarthy will spend his shaky tenure, as long as it lasts, balanced on a razor’s edge. One nick and he’s gone.

Far more troubling, McCarthy’s cowardly concessions leave the country hostage for the next two years to an extreme fringe of far-right zealots, who threaten to turn the normal operation of government and such typically routine business — like raising the debt ceiling to avoid default and economic catastrophe — into a cliffhanging drama.

The deep humbling of McCarthy could be seen as cruel, a snub by fellow lawmakers whose power was made possible by the Bakersfield Republican’s years of hard work as grand strategist and campaigner in chief for the House GOP. But the drip-drip torture of prolonged balloting was so egregiously self-inflicted, so glaring in the making and so abundantly well-deserved that it is impossible to muster even the slightest bit of sympathy. . . .

There is an epithet thrown at those in the GOP deemed less than 100% pure: Republican in name only. McCarthy, eagerly stepping into a straitjacket of his own design, has earned himself the dubious distinction of becoming speaker in name only.[4]

Start placing your bets on how long this lasts.

Natalie Andrews and Eliza Collins, “Kevin McCarthy Falls Short of House Speaker Win in Three Rounds of Voting,” Wall Street Journal, January 3, 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-prepares-to-vote-for-speaker-as-kevin-mccarthy-tries-to-rally-support-11672750973

Aaron Blake, “McCarthy’s big concession — and how it could hamstring a GOP speaker,” Washington Post, January 3, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/03/motion-vacate-house-speaker/

John Cassidy, “Behind the Humiliation of Kevin McCarthy,” New Yorker, January 3, 2023, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/behind-the-humiliation-of-kevin-mccarthy

Clare Foran et al., “House adjourns after chaotic day without electing a speaker as McCarthy fails to lock down votes,” Cable News Network, January 3, 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/03/politics/house-speaker-vote-mccarthy/index.html

Tara Palmeri, “We Need to Talk About Kevin, ” Puck News, January 3, 2023, https://puck.news/we-need-to-talk-about-kevin/

Clare Foran et al., “House adjourns for second day without electing a speaker with McCarthy’s bid in peril,” Cable News Network, January 4, 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/04/politics/kevin-mccarthy-speaker-vote/index.html

Molly Jong-Fast, “The Kevin McCarthy Mess Is Peak Trumpism,” Vanity Fair, January 4, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/01/kevin-mccarthy-speaker-vote-gop-trumpism

Nolan D. McCaskill, “Deadlocked House adjourns until evening after Kevin McCarthy racks up yet another defeat,” Los Angeles Times, January 4, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-04/trump-mccarthy-speaker-votes

Tara Palmeri, “Scalise Smoke Signals,” Puck News, January 4, 2023, https://puck.news/scalise-smoke-signals/

Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey, “The House hard-liners blocking McCarthy aren’t listening to Trump,” Washington Post, January 4, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/04/trump-mccarthy-speaker/

Dan Zak and Ben Terris, “Does the House even exist right now?” Washington Post, January 4, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2023/01/04/house-of-representatives-in-purgatory-without-speaker/

Olivia Beavers et al., “McCarthy nears tentative deal with conservatives after days of stalemate,” Politico, January 5, 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/01/05/mccarthy-bid-00076520

Aaron Blake, “What McCarthy’s concessions could cost him — and the GOP,” Washington Post, January 5, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/05/mccarthy-concessions-gop/

Bess Levin, “Kevin McCarthy Debases Himself in Hopes of Finally Winning Speaker Vote, Then Loses Again (And Again, And Again),” Vanity Fair, January 5, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/01/kevin-mccarthy-speaker-vote-concessions

Eric Levitz, “The GOP Is More Ungovernable Than Ever Before,” New York, January 5, 2023, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2023/01/the-gop-is-more-ungovernable-than-ever-before.html

Nolan D. McCaskill, “House adjourns for night after McCarthy amasses 11 speaker vote losses,” Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-05/mccarthy-speaker-thursday-votes

Tina Nguyen, “McCarthy’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” Puck News, January 5, 2023, https://puck.news/mccarthys-chronicle-of-a-death-foretold/

Mark Z. Barabak, “Kevin McCarthy ‘won’ the House speakership. Now the country will pay the price,” Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-06/kevin-mccarthy-speaker-house-vote

Jenavieve Hatch, Gillian Brassil, and David Lightman, “California GOP on McCarthy Speaker bid: ‘The Republican Party is entirely dependent on him,’” Sacramento Bee, January 6, 2023, https://www.sacbee.com/news/california/article270831322.html

Tara Palmeri, “The McCarthy-Scalise Detente,” Puck News, January 6, 2023, https://puck.news/the-mccarthy-scalise-detente/

Nolan D. McCaskill, “Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership on 15th vote,” Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-06/mccarthy-speaker-jan-6-anniversary


  1. [1]Nolan D. McCaskill, “Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership on 15th vote,” Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-06/mccarthy-speaker-jan-6-anniversary
  2. [2]Nolan D. McCaskill, “Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership on 15th vote,” Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-06/mccarthy-speaker-jan-6-anniversary
  3. [3]Mark Z. Barabak, “Kevin McCarthy ‘won’ the House speakership. Now the country will pay the price,” Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-06/kevin-mccarthy-speaker-house-vote; Olivia Beavers et al., “McCarthy nears tentative deal with conservatives after days of stalemate,” Politico, January 5, 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/01/05/mccarthy-bid-00076520; Aaron Blake, “McCarthy’s big concession — and how it could hamstring a GOP speaker,” Washington Post, January 3, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/03/motion-vacate-house-speaker/; Aaron Blake, “What McCarthy’s concessions could cost him — and the GOP,” Washington Post, January 5, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/05/mccarthy-concessions-gop/; Bess Levin, “Kevin McCarthy Debases Himself in Hopes of Finally Winning Speaker Vote, Then Loses Again (And Again, And Again),” Vanity Fair, January 5, 2023, https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2023/01/kevin-mccarthy-speaker-vote-concessions; Nolan D. McCaskill, “Kevin McCarthy wins House speakership on 15th vote,” Los Angeles Times, January 7, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-06/mccarthy-speaker-jan-6-anniversary; Tara Palmeri, “The McCarthy-Scalise Detente,” Puck News, January 6, 2023, https://puck.news/the-mccarthy-scalise-detente/
  4. [4]Mark Z. Barabak, “Kevin McCarthy ‘won’ the House speakership. Now the country will pay the price,” Los Angeles Times, January 6, 2023, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-06/kevin-mccarthy-speaker-house-vote

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