WASHINGTON, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) — This week’s unprecedented ouster of the U.S. House Speaker has pushed U.S. party infighting to a climax, the fallout of which will undoubtedly complicate the trajectory of the U.S. House and potentially shape the country’s wider political landscape, already mired in partisan wrestling.
Experts have said that the ouster could also disrupt the 2024 presidential elections, besides disrupting the legislative process. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was booted out of his position by lawmakers on Tuesday, in a move initiated by a member of his own party, marking the first time in U.S. history that a House speaker has been voted out of office in the middle of a term.
This occurred in a 216 to 210 vote, in which eight GOP lawmakers sided with Democrats. McCarthy was voted out after he cut a deal with Democrats to avoid a looming government shutdown, which a handful of GOP lawmakers viewed as giving in to the opposition.
Matt Gaetz, the fellow Republican who led the ouster, had earlier accused McCarthy of caving to what he described as Democrats’ excessive spending agenda. McCarthy initially attempted to pass a stopgap funding bill with spending cuts and border security provisions.
But conservative Republicans opposed any “patchwork” funding package and refused to cooperate, forcing him to turn to Democrats for support. The vote to oust McCarthy came nearly nine months after he won the position in a dramatic 15-round floor fight.
In many ways, McCarthy’s ouster was set in motion when, in deal-making with hard-right holdouts at the start of the year, he agreed to a series of demands, including a House rule change allowing any member to file a motion to vacate.
CHAOTIC LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
Republican Representative Patrick T. McHenry from North Carolina has been named acting speaker of the House after McCarthy’s ouster. The House now needs to elect a new speaker, with a vote expected next week. It remains unclear who will fill the vacant slot for speaker — third in command after the president and the vice president.
Republican Representative Jim Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise both announced Wednesday that they plan to join the race. McCarthy has said Tuesday that he would not seek the position again, setting up an expected intense intraparty battle for the speakership.
The absence of a speaker will mean nothing gets done in the House as the closure of certain government departments inches closer. Rep. Tom McClintock from California predicted that “the House will be paralyzed, we can expect week after week of fruitless ballots while no other business can be conducted.”
Christopher Galdieri, a political science professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua: “Until a speaker is elected there’s not going to be anything meaningful happening in the House, and the clock is ticking on the 45 days the government will stay open.”
In a last-minute effort to avert a government shutdown, McCarthy released a “clean” stopgap funding bill Saturday morning, which would keep federal agencies funded at current levels until mid-November. ”
The legislative process is going to be chaotic as the two parties are strongly divided in their policy objectives,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
“Democrats will argue this shows Republicans are out of control and not able to govern effectively,” West said.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, a Missouri Republican, said in a statement that the chaos could weaken the GOP negotiating position in the fights to come, arguing that the actions to remove the speaker actually “empower those who want to increase spending.”
IMPACT ON ELECTIONS
The week’s events could impact next year’s presidential elections, with Democrats using the ouster as fodder to make the case that Republicans are disorganized and incapable of governing. Hakeem Jeffries, the top House Democrat, already said in a statement Tuesday that under the Republican majority, the House “has been restructured to empower right-wing extremists, kowtow to their harsh demands and impose a rigid partisan ideology.”
“House Republicans have undermined that principle at every turn and unleashed chaos, dysfunction and extremism on hardworking American taxpayers,” said Jeffries.
After last year’s midterm elections, the Republican Party retook the House, with control of 221 seats, just nine more than the Democratic Party’s 212 seats.
“If the discord in the House continues — resulting, say, in a government shutdown or another impasse over the debt ceiling — so that real citizens are hurt where they live, then I think there is a real potential for this to negatively impact Republican hopes at the polls,” Greg Cusack, a former member of the Iowa House of Representatives, told Xinhua.
Other experts believe the unprecedented event could lead some voters to view the GOP as factionalized.
Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua that a likely path is that the GOP “continues to be factionalized and gets a corresponding reputation among independent voters.”