What’s Next

Kevin McCarthy lost the first procedural vote. It now seems almost certain that he’ll lose the real vote and be ousted from the Speakership. Then the House Clerk will reveal a letter in which McCarthy placed a list of names of people who could serve as Speaker pro tem if McCarthy could no longer serve. The first name on that list will almost certainly be a loyalist.

So we’ll have McCarthy ousted but almost certainly still determined to reclaim the chair. The temporary Speaker will be one of his loyalists. It’s unclear whether that new temporary Speaker will have to start holding elections for a new Speaker literally immediately or whether he has a bit of flexibility. That person will almost certainly make that choice in the interests of McCarthy regaining the Speakership.

Watching these speeches though you get a strong, strong sense that the overwhelming majority of Republicans not only don’t support this but are really pissed about it. I’m certainly not the audience for these speeches. But the Gaetz group’s speeches don’t seem terribly persuasive even in a Republican context – at least not to fellow members of Congress. The members speaking up for McCarthy span the whole ideological range of the caucus. Each speech basically amounts to “I wanted this cool thing but didn’t get it”. It’s Kevin McCarthy’s fault that he couldn’t get every Republican to support the Good/Bigg/Gaetz line.


Smart Point

Just a quick point while we’re in between votes on Kevin McCarthy’s speakership.

In an interview with the Washington Post, Congress expert Matt Glassman offered this very succinct explanation of the problem McCarthy has been saddled with since January:

Just like the speaker’s election in January, it doesn’t do any good to get a majority one time. … To run the House, you need an ongoing majority, day in and day out, in order to set the floor agenda.

That’s it. That’s the whole deal. By that way of thinking, McCarthy has arguably never had a real majority. We’re about to find it if he does now.


The Latest (January Replay)

The latest news suggests that Kevin McCarthy simply does not have the votes to survive today’s challenge from Matt Gaetz. In other words, he’ll lose both the first procedural vote (pretty much a foregone conclusion) and the big vote that actually removes him as Speaker. So it looks highly likely that McCarthy will be out as Speaker today. But as we’ve said, that doesn’t end the story. They still have to elect a new Speaker.

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The (Like a) Dog Who Won’t Bark

A TPM Reader asked me last night how much of this is shaking out in the way it is because Donald Trump is distracted by his trials and thus not getting involved. My initial response was that it might be playing some role. But I figured the much bigger driver is the fact that unlike his own power, his own freedom and his own money, who runs the House Republican caucus just doesn’t affect him that much. What we know about Donald Trump is that if there’s nothing in it for him he basically doesn’t care. That’s got to be a big part of it. But as today has played out I wonder whether this may be having a bigger impact than I thought.

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Dems Make Their Offer: Nothing

The different parties are lining up on this Speakership showdown. House Democrats position appears unanimous and categorical. No help for McCarthy whatsoever. Every member of the caucus will vote to oust McCarthy.

A couple points.

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Stay Skeptical

The insider newsletters are out with updates and vote counts on Matt Gaetz’s motion to vacate. The more detailed one is Punchbowl. It has Gaetz already holding four votes including his own to oust McCarthy. Three more lean toward ouster and another five are considering it. On its face this isn’t great for McCarthy. Gaetz needs just one more vote to oust McCarthy if every member is in attendance – a non-trivial if.


Let It Burn?

There’s a lot of discussion now about whether Democrats should directly or indirectly bail out Kevin McCarthy. Many reports say it will be necessary. I thought I should add that nothing I’ve written about this topic in recent days should give the impression that anyone should be rooting for McCarthy over the Freedom Caucus. There are no good guys in this story. But some are more ridiculous than others. Matt Gaetz for one.

A few thoughts on this clown show.

First: Let’s not forget how we got here.


Gaetz Going Down the Tubes

I thought and perhaps hoped Matt Gaetz’s failed rebellion would go a bit longer. But it’s collapsing even more rapidly than I imagined. This afternoon Ralph Norman, one of the deans of the anti-McCarthy clown car, has given the thumbs down to Gaetz’s plan for a motion to vacate. Chip Roy has done the same. Gaetz is now out begging for support on Twitter.

He might get it since he only needs three or perhaps four to join him. (Rep. Eli Crane suggested on Twitter yesterday that he was up for it. Depends on whether we assume he’s in Gaetz’s corner.) But the folks who need to be on board for a real rebellion are giving the whole thing the thumbs down. This leaves Gaetz isolated. I’m skeptical that even the most hardened House GOP freaks are going to want to join him for this embarrassment.


Gaetz Threat Already Crumbling Apart

Right after House Republicans went low energy and agreed to a clean 45-day continuing resolution over the weekend, Rep. Matt Gaetz announced he would lower the boom on Speaker McCarthy by filing a so-called “motion to vacate” this week. But that threat already seems shaky at best. There are already almost certainly fanciful threats circulating in right-wing media that Republicans will try to expel Gaetz from Congress if the long-simmering ethics investigation into his druggie, teen-dating past finds evidence of wrongdoing. This report started at Fox and got picked up in the New York Post, Daily Mail, et. al. More significant, very few of the hardliners Gaetz will need are coming to his banner. As far as I can tell only Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona has suggested he might be on board.

Don’t hold your breath thinking that Republicans are going to expel Matt Gaetz. That’s BS fed to pliant press. But the attack articles in the right-wing press confirms what is true, which is that a lot of Republicans are seriously pissed at Gaetz for his central role in their latest highwire debacle.

To make sense of his threats we need to discuss the mechanics of how that threat works.



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