McCarthy strikes a deal for Speaker

by Sarav Desai (’24) | February 3, 2023

Art by Kiana Allard (’24)

Early on the morning of Saturday, January 7, Kevin McCarthy breathed a sigh of relief, as he was finally elected to be the fifty-fifth Speaker of the House of Representatives. Five days of chaos, fanfare, near violence on the House floor, and unexpected votes turned what was supposed to be a formality into a nightmare for McCarthy. His main opposition—rebellious members of his own party—managed to win key concessions, which foretells major difficulties for his reign as Speaker. 

The twenty representatives that consistently opposed McCarthy share one commonality—membership in the secretive Freedom Caucus. With estimated numbers in the forties, its members consistently rank as the most conservative and far-right members of the House. Formed in 2015 by Tea Party Republicans, the caucus has not been afraid to go against the GOP establishment in order to further its agenda, while refusing almost all compromise with Democrats. Most notably, its members managed to extract major concessions from Speaker McCarthy, in exchange for their support of his candidacy.

Reportedly, McCarthy agreed to revert the rule concerning the removal of the Speaker, so that one representative would be enough to call a vote of no confidence. Additionally, he promised to attack the impending debt ceiling crisis by exclusively cutting government programs, rather than delaying the problem by raising the ceiling. Most importantly, he agreed to allocate three valuable seats on the House Rules Committee to Freedom Caucus members, giving them a say in which bills make it to the House floor. With the thirteen seats on the committee divided between six establishment Republicans, three far-right Republicans, and four Democrats, any legislation Republicans propose would have to appeal to the farthest-right members of the party for a chance of reaching the House floor. 

McCarthy has made a gamble, and it is increasingly likely that he has undermined the effectiveness of his own reign. As a result of weak showing at the midterm elections, the Republican majority in the House is extremely slim, making it vulnerable to the same group of rogue, radical Republicans that hampered McCarthy’s election to the position of Speaker. With this in mind, it is important to note that any legislation that makes it past the House would be ultra-conservative and immediately voted down by the Democrat-controlled Senate. This is a recipe for Congressional gridlock reminiscent of Obama’s final six years in office, where a Republican legislature coupled with a Democratic president led to very few bills actually being signed into law. However, it is crucial to note that the current situation the country faces is different. During Obama’s tenure, there was a larger element of bipartisanship, but with the increasing polarization of American politics and McCarthy’s empowerment of far-right conservatives, the gridlock in today’s Congress could be unprecedented.

As mentioned before, the United States faces an impending debt crisis as the country deals with the statutory debt ceiling. If reached, it would spell certain economic disaster for not just the country, but the world, as the U.S. dollar remains the dominant world currency. Freedom Caucus Republicans, who have declared that they would only vote for a remedy to the crisis that involved cuts to government spending (excluding defense spending), can essentially hold the country hostage with their disproportionate political power to get what they want. The upcoming months will tell us if Congress can overcome gridlock to remedy the crisis, but McCarthy’s gamble may have seriously endangered the country.

Categories: Opinions

2 replies »

  1. Very nicely articulated covers so many areas which can be effected by one man ambition or few others who put their interest first before millions others.


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