‘Fool’s Errand’: McCarthy Removed as Speaker, May Derail House Efforts to Pass Budget, Congressman Warns
Updated: 10/03/2023 04:54 PM EDT
On Tuesday afternoon, the U.S. House voted 216-210 to remove U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as Speaker of the House. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) filed a Motion to Vacate (MTV) the chair on Monday. U.S. Rep. Mark Alford (R-Mo.) on “Washington Watch” called it “a fool’s errand” that “is only going to delay us from doing … what the taxpayers and our constituents sent us here to do. And that’s to get these … appropriations bills passed, to pay our bills, to fund our military, to make sure that we are solvent as a nation.”
Earlier in the afternoon, the U.S. House voted down a resolution to block Gaetz’s MTV 218-208, with 11 Republicans, including Gaetz, voting with Democrats.
Gaetz filed the motion after the U.S. House passed a continuing resolution (CR) on Saturday to avert a government shutdown and continue current funding levels for 45 days. The measure passed, but with the opposition of about half the Republican caucus.
Speaker McCarthy introduced the CR after the House voted down a more conservative short-term funding measure 198-232 on Friday. However, it failed after 21 Republicans — led by Gaetz — and all Democrats voted against it.
That measure, negotiated by members of the House Freedom Caucus and the Main Street Caucus, cut discretionary spending by 8% for 30 days and partially addressed the border crisis. “I would say that’s victory if we would have gotten that through,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, host of “Washington Watch.” “Why did we have 21 Republicans vote against it?” Alford responded, “There were five, possibly seven, members who were not going to vote for anything that they perceived as a continuing resolution.”
“We came at this, even last week, with the viewpoint [of] ‘let’s get the best deal we can get,’” said Alford. The conservative short-term funding bill “was the best thing that we were going to do” to avert a government shutdown. “When it came out that we could not pass [it], that we did not have enough votes in our conference,” he explained, “the leadership did what would be the second best option.”
As context, Alford noted that “the Senate was working on their own continuing resolution, which would have added $6 billion in Ukraine funding, which we were against until we get a clear plan to victory.”
Media coverage of the brouhaha generated headlines such as, “House GOP tanks its own funding bill, edging closer to shutdown.” Perkins responded Monday, “The option of allowing the government to ‘shut down’ would have been pinned on Republicans. … Speaker McCarthy made the right decision.”
While not Republicans’ first choice, the 45-day CR “allows time for Congress to do something that, quite frankly, they haven’t done a long time,” said Perkins, “and that is approve the 12 individual appropriations bills in a methodical and responsible way. The question is, will they? Or will they get embroiled in politics?”
“I applaud the conservatives. We would not be having many of the discussions we’re having if conservatives didn’t hold the line and enforce an open process in the legislature, so that we’re actually debating these bills, we’re amending them,” said Perkins. “But sometimes you’ve got to take victory.” Instead of spending time to remove the speaker, he said, “You guys have work to do. You have appropriations bills that need to get done.”
Meanwhile, “the Senate hadn’t done squat. They have not passed any appropriations bills,” explained Alford. Passing all the appropriations bills through the House would improve Republicans’ rhetorical position in negotiations and put pressure on the Senate to act.
Alford said House leadership has worked backward from the new deadline, November 17, and set a timeline to work the remaining eight appropriations bills through the process. McCarthy canceled an upcoming recess to work on passing a budget. “We are staying here. We are working. We are not going home. We are getting this done,” Alford said. “We are working through the committee process to get these through the rules and get these on the floor so that we can have a vote for the American people.” The MTV puts all other House business on hold until a new speaker was chosen.
“People that I’m [talking to about the speakership] — they don’t want the job. They believe in Kevin McCarthy, as do I,” said Alford. Perkins made the same point Monday, “I’ve spoken to a handful of those who might be potential replacements. No one wants the position. Why? Because they know they would have the same challenge of leading a very, very narrow majority.” Among those who don’t want to replace McCarthy are House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is currently receiving treatment for cancer, and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.).
“With the legislative clock once again ticking, should removing the Speaker of the House be the focus for Republicans — or should they focus on getting the remaining appropriations bills done before this stopgap measure expires?” asked Perkins. “I think it’s a fool’s errand. I think it’s sophomoric” to speak of firing the speaker right now, insisted Alford. He compared leading the narrow Republican majority to “herding cats in a room.”
“This speaker has done more than anyone that I’ve seen trying to bring consensus, letting people talk, trying to get not just what’s coming out of their mouth, but what’s on their heart so we can come together as a conference,” said Alford. “I don’t know anyone else who would be able to do that.”
If House Republicans failed to meet this second deadline, Alford warned, the stakes would be much higher. “I’ve told the leadership this, ‘I am good for one continuing resolution. … That’s it,’” he said. “We’ve got to get it done. The American people are tired of the way Washington operates.”
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.