It’s hard to generate much sympathy for former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who lost his dream job Tuesday when eight Republican dissidents turned against him. Although the Bakersfield Republican did the right thing last week by supporting a measure to prevent a government shutdown that received bipartisan support, his record until then is less worthy of admiration.
This is the same McCarthy who voted to challenge some of the 2020 election results, courted Donald Trump after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, appeased far-right members of his conference, and acted unilaterally to authorize a baseless investigation into impeaching President Biden.
Nor should Democrats, who voted en masse to impeach him, be blamed for not coming to McCarthy’s rescue after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) proposed vacating the speaker’s seat. It’s hard to see why the opposing party should have bailed out McCarthy, given his willingness to seek more restrictive spending limits than possible under a deal he made with the White House in May to suspend the debt ceiling and avoid a default. Payments. McCarthy didn’t help himself over the weekend when he said Democrats were the ones who “were willing to let the government shut down, so our military wouldn’t get paid” when 90 Republicans and just one Democrat voted against. of the provisional measure to avoid a government shutdown.
However, McCarthy’s ouster from the presidency could lead to even more dysfunction and drama in the House. What might be called the Nihilist Caucus in the Republican conference has been strengthened by their swipe at McCarthy. If these hardliners exercise a veto over the choice of McCarthy’s successor, they could put the next speaker on an even tighter leash than the one they put around McCarthy’s neck.
At his best, McCarthy recognized that members of Congress are supposed to be stewards of the public interest, not just provocateurs and partisan scorers. “I have no regrets about standing up for the choice of governance rather than grievances,” McCarthy told reporters after he was voted out of office. “It is my responsibility. It’s my job. I don’t regret having negotiated. “Our government is designed to reach a compromise.”
The price McCarthy paid for acting on that philosophy tells his successor that putting the nation first is politically dangerous, assuming the next speaker even wants to pursue bipartisan solutions.
The stopgap funding legislation for which McCarthy paid a political price keeps the federal government running until November 17. Bipartisanship will be necessary to continue government operations after that, as well as to support important priorities such as assisting Ukraine in its resistance to unprovoked Russian aggression. .
For the good of their party and the country, Republicans, in electing a new president, should look for a conciliator, not an agent of chaos.