This weekend the United States narrowly avoided a government shutdown when Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy cut a deal with the Democrats to pass a 45-day continuing resolution that would keep the government open while Congress hammers out a long-term budget. The Atlantic asks if this marks McCarthy’s downfall as Speaker. Indeed, the radical Florida congressman Matt Gaetz is already promising a motion to vacate the chair to oust McCarthy.
Kevin McCarthy only barely became Speaker after a contentious 15 rounds of voting. His entire speakership has been under threat from the beginning by right-wing nutjob radicals like Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor-Greene. The members of the GOP Crazy Caucus extracted numerous concessions from McCarthy in order to end their blockade of his speakership. Now McCarthy has finally decided to put the country ahead of the radicals. And while the 45-day CR is deeply flawed—it fails to provide funding for the Ukrainians in their war against Russian invasion—it also manages to keep the government running with relatively few strings attached.
Luckily for McCarthy, the radicals may have overplayed their hand. Matt Gaetz is hated in the halls of Congress for being an impetuous and irritating figure. Gaetz is also subject to a House Ethics Committee probe investigating him for drug use, sexual assault, and financial crimes. And unlike “George Santos” or whoever he is, Gaetz has not been a team player. Given that Gaetz also has a safely GOP seat (unlike Santos), the political calculations of getting rid of him are quite different. Gaetz will undoubtedly try and defenestrate McCarthy with a motion to vacate the chair, but it might be his own political career he torpedoes.
In the end, this just shows how utterly dysfunctional the GOP House is. Even with Kevin McCarthy acting like the (relative) adult in the room, the GOP caucus has spent more time with a sham investigation into Joe Biden than doing anything about issues that matter to the American voter. The GOP caucus has a parade of political embarrassments from the entitled Lauren Boebert groping a date and vaping in a theater, to the constant antics of Marjorie Taylor Green, to the fraud of George Santos, to Matt Gaetz. These motley characters exist just to play to the QAnon-addled base of the GOP, but come across as toxic to the rest of the country.
For Kevin McCarthy, if he survives Gaetz’ efforts to oust him he comes across as the leader he’s never been in his political career. A government shutdown would be further political poison to the GOP. McCarthy may not be able to hold a candle to Nancy Pelosi in terms of rallying a narrow majority, but he is a political survivor. Whatever his reasons for doing the right thing, he showed something exceedingly rare in the GOP today: a small amount of spine.