McCarthy Ouster Means More Turmoil as Next Shutdown Fight Looms

Kevin McCarthy’s ouster as US House speaker plunged Congress into an internal power struggle as it faces key deadlines on avoiding a government shutdown and approving aid for Ukraine — all as the country hurtles toward a presidential election.

(Bloomberg) — Kevin McCarthy’s ouster as US House speaker plunged Congress into an internal power struggle as it faces key deadlines on avoiding a government shutdown and approving aid for Ukraine — all as the country hurtles toward a presidential election.

McCarthy lost his leadership post after hardliners in his own party revolted over his compromise with Democrats to avert a government shutdown last weekend. He said he won’t run again for speaker and hasn’t thought about resigning from Congress.

Representative Patrick McHenry took over as acting speaker after the 216-210 vote as the House awaits an election for a permanent replacement. There is a wide open lane, with members set to go home for a week and the House expected to hold speaker elections Oct. 11.

The spending fight laid bare the deep divisions between Republicans who are loyal to former President Donald Trump and more moderate members, a battle that has plagued McCarthy as it did his Republican predecessor in the post, Paul Ryan. Those divisions have also prompted disappointing election results for the GOP in 2018, 2020 and 2022.

“I do not regret negotiating,” McCarthy said. “I do not regret my efforts to build coalitions and find solutions.”

The latest turmoil has fueled concerns about deepening dysfunction in Washington among investors and political leaders around the world. Moody’s Investors Service Inc., the only remaining major credit grader to give the US a top rating, warned in late September its confidence in the US is wavering because of concerns about “governance.”

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in an analysis for clients that the ouster raises the risk of a government shutdown next month. McCarthy’s successor will probably be under “even more pressure” to avoid a temporary funding package or additional funding for Ukraine, Goldman said.

“Here we are trying to do appropriations. We have Ukraine, we have border issues. And within the Republican party they have this civil war,” Representative Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, said on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power.” “And on every issue, especially at the border, we can’t do anything until they’re finished having this debate.”

The stopgap funding measure that avoided the shutdown gave legislators only until Nov. 17 to come up with a more lasting replacement. 

“This undermines that whole goal because now they’re going to be mired in a speaker election for who knows how long,” Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said after the ouster vote.

As for who might make a run to replace McCarthy, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who has been the No. 2 House Republican as majority leader, has been making calls to some members testing the waters, according to two people familiar with his activities. Representatives Tom Emmer of Minnesota and Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 and 4 elected party officials, respectively, also are mentioned by Republican lawmakers as potential candidates. 

Others names floated: Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio; Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole and Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, both of Oklahoma; and Representative Byron Donalds of Florida.

Representative Troy Nehls of Texas said he planned to nominate Trump for speaker. 

Tuesday’s turmoil is only the latest political upheaval for Republicans. The party’s current presidential frontrunner, Trump, is in a New York courtroom facing a civil fraud case. Last week, the debate among his rivals for the nomination last week at times verged on chaos.

McCarthy barely won the job of speaker in January, enduring a historic 15 rounds of voting before he took the gavel — and only under the condition that any one member would be allowed to offer a motion to remove him from his post at any time. Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida consistently held that threat over McCarthy’s head throughout his brief tenure and triggered Tuesday’s vote.

Even as McCarthy refused to give in to the most conservative elements of his party, he kept up his pugnacious partisanship. He publicly criticized Democrats last weekend over their spending demands at just the moment he could have tried to leverage any goodwill from averting the shutdown to save his job.

Democrats were also angered when he allowed the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden to go forward. No Democrats voted to rescue him Tuesday.

Hardline Critics

In his nine-month tenure, McCarthy notched some significant wins. He crafted a bipartisan debt-ceiling package, fending off a historic default against the wishes of the same hardliners who ousted him on Tuesday. He also managed to avert the government shutdown that had been all but inevitable until he made a deal with Democrats to get it passed without funding for Ukraine in its war against a Russian invasion.

Those victories would have guaranteed job security for US House speakers of the past. But because of the deal McCarthy made to win the leadership position, it took only Gaetz, a Trump acolyte who deeply opposed both deals, to accelerate his demise.

Even Trump, who has egged his supporters in Congress to default on the US debt or allow the government to shut down if they didn’t get everything they wanted in a deal, wondered in a social media post on Tuesday why Republicans were fighting among themselves instead of targeting the opposition.

–With assistance from Gregory Korte, Annmarie Hordern, Joe Mathieu and Laura Litvan.

(Updates with possible successors, starting in 11th paragraph.)

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