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Opinion: The Fight Over Speaker of the House, and What it Means for the Future of American Politics

Mollie Kuritzky, Grade 11, Staff Writer

 

In early October, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R) was ousted from his position as speaker of the house. In what is known as a motion to vacate, introduced by Representative Matt Gaetz, McCarthy was removed from office and temporarily replaced with Representative Patrick McHenry (R). What followed has further revealed the shockingly divisive and unproductive state of the American government. 


The speaker of the house carries great responsibility. Past being second in line for the presidency, they manage almost all aspects of the house floor. This includes creating the order of issues being proposed, communicating on behalf of the house with the public and other government officials, and generally keeping the house running. Without a figure to complete these tasks, the house became chaotic and unable to approve essential policies, such as the federal budget. 


It was this very debate over the federal budget that was the final straw for the anti-McCarthy Republicans. With a government shutdown imminent, McCarthy decided to get a short budget resolution passed by negotiating with Democrats. The deal did not honor all demands of the far-right coalition, thus beginning the process of ousting McCarthy.


When McCarthy was initially nominated for speaker of the House, a group of 20 conservative extremists were intent on stopping McCarthy from being elected. Their blockade  caused the need for 16 voting rounds before he secured the position. One of those representatives was Matt Gaetz, the same Representative who brought the  motion to vacate the speakership after threatening to do so repeatedly. McCarthy neglected the seriousness of these threats, commenting that it was mere “personal” grievances that Gaetz was acting upon. Yet, when the motion was brought to the house floor, it passed. McCarthy was no longer the speaker of the house. In a video broadcasted by Fox News, Matt Gaetz remarked, “It is to the benefit of this country that we have a better speaker of the house than Kevin McCarthy.”


A new speaker had to be nominated quickly to resume congressional business.  First to be considered was Steve Scalise, a Republican representative from Louisiana. His pet causes are those of an average conservative: 2nd amendment preservation and increased border security, including the building of a wall. He also has expressed doubts  surrounding the validity, or lack thereof, of the 2020 election. However, he ultimately did not have enough votes to acquire the position.  


Next was Jim Jordan, a Republican representative of Ohio. He is mostly known for communicating with Trump right before the January 6th Insurrection and being a major denier of the 2020 election results. Though both Scalise and Jordan could be considered ultra-conservative, Jordan occupies  a different realm due to his direct involvement with a riot that could have upended American democracy. There is a major difference between basic election suspicions, which are still outrageous, and being directly tied to an angry mob who wanted to end our system of government. He also, thankfully, did not have the votes. 


Lastly, there is Mike Johnson, another Republican from Louisiana. Johnson was a dark horse, and yet the only one able to scrape together enough votes. A wolf in sheep’s clothing, he has consistently supported abortion bans and revoking gay rights while remaining under the radar up until now. 


Congress, similarly to other political bodies within our government, now prioritizes party loyalty over competence and effectiveness. These loyalties are now more defined than simply Republicans vs. Democrats. They also include the different leanings and positions along the spectrum within each party. Extreme conservatives would evidently rather go into a government shutdown amid two major wars in which the U.S. has funding responsibility than allow McCarthy to negotiate with Democrats (which is, by the way, what politics is entirely about). If we can no longer bridge the gap between political parties, how will our government operate, let alone do so with efficiency?


It turns out that others also feel this way. When asked her opinion on the matter, Junior Mathilda Simons said, “It’s scary to see how ineffective American government has become. Not even within a party can a strong leader be found, even when it is needed for congress to function.”


This brings up questions specific to the future of the Republican party. The division amongst conservatives is clearly unsustainable. Former calls for the split of the party into populists and conservatives seem far-fetched, but so did 20 extremists controlling the entire house. Conservative leaders must now appeal to the moderates, the radicals, and everyone in between, an impossible task. It begs the question: how can anyone manage to lead such a factionalized party? And, how will this struggle for unity affect the 2024 elections?

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