The House Crack Suicide Squad: The Ouster of McCarthy Captures the Politics of Our Times

In Monty Python’s film, “The Life of Brian,” the lead character hangs hopelessly on the cross when a small army arrives to rescue him. His relief is short-lived as Otto, the leader, promptly announces that they are the crack suicide squad trained to kill themselves “within 20 seconds.” The scene came to mind yesterday as eight Republicans joined Democrats to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy. It was a moment that perfectly captured our politics of chaos and disruption, including the refusal of a single Democrat to prevent the House from going through a week of unnecessary turmoil. There was a time when opposing members would oppose such moves in the interest of House as an institution. This is not one of those times.

The most telling aspect of the ouster was that there was no plan other than vacating the chair. It had all of the logic of Monty Python’s Judean People’s Front Crack Suicide Squad. Eight members rushed forward and committed ritualistic suicide.

This is the first time in history that a speaker has been ousted despite the fact that McCarthy had all but eight of the Republicans supporting his retention. It is telling that we have gone through wars, economic crises, and social upheavals without resorting to this type of nuclear option.

These members have valid objections to the use of continuing resolutions and the dishonest process used for years to steadily increase our debt. I get that.  What I do not get is how vacating the chair will change anything.

Speaker McCarthy did make major changes in returning to regular order. There was more transparency and empowerment of members. It was far more democratic after years of almost autocratic rule by the leadership. Rules were changed as promised and greater amendments allowed on the floor. Ironically, it was the Democrats who embraced the all-powerful speaker model with reduced ability for members to read, let alone challenge, bills.

Notably, in his farewell remarks late last night, McCarthy said that Nancy Pelosi had assured him that he could return to the rule allowing any member to seek to vacate the chair because she and the Democrats would stand with the Speaker. If so, that was a statement consistent with the long values of the House. There were certain acts that were deemed as beyond the pale. Vacating the chair to make a statement was viewed as inimical to the institution. Despite decades of fierce political divisions, there were times when partisanship would be set aside.

As Democrats profess alarm over government shutdowns and the lack of legislation on key issues, this vacating of the chair will only delay business in the “People’s House.” It was certainly a thrilling moment for many, but few would argue that it was good for the institution. Indeed, they are more likely to get an even more conservative and strident speaker than McCarthy.

As for Republicans, they will now have to negotiate with Rep. Matt Gaetz and the other seven members to be able to resume business. In the meantime, much of the business on the border, the budget, and the impeachment inquiry will have to wait in abeyance.

At the same time, the chaos could well cost moderate Republicans their seats as the media portrays the GOP as careening and unable to govern effectively. That would then hand the House back to the Democrats in 2024. McCarthy was credited with raising a huge amount of money to reelect Republicans and coordinating a strategy to take the House majority.

The new speaker will face the same realities in dealing with a Democratically-controlled Senate and a Democratic White House in getting anything through Congress.

This effort would have been far more convincing if there was a cognizable plan and preferred alternative at the outset. The over 200 GOP members supporting McCarthy are not going to materially yield their positions to eight members. I simply do not see how the ouster will make a material difference while costing the GOP in terms of both time and optics.

The comedian Steven Martin once said “chaos in the midst of chaos isn’t funny, but chaos in the midst of order is.”

He is right. There is nothing funny in the chaos in Congress.

247 thoughts on “The House Crack Suicide Squad: The Ouster of McCarthy Captures the Politics of Our Times”

  1. Now that the Trump faction of the Republican Party has pushed Humpty Dumpty off the wall . . . let’s see if they have the Gorilla Glue to put him back together.  

  2. Ten Republicans can switch parties and the House will have a stable majority.

    (If that is wrong, why is “10 Dems should vote for a GOP Speaker” right?)

  3. I listened to Rep. Gaetz’s answers to reporters questions. He didn’t stumble or pause or equivocate. His answers were clear and dead on. There is an I&I/TIPP poll suggesting most Americans want spending reduced. Now it may be that the Democrats and Republicans will have some trouble coming to terms on which items to cut, but the poll is an indication that most people recognize the unsustainable trajectory here. We simply can’t avoid regular order.

    Democrats are a lock step mob taking us all to god knows where. Republicans are squishy and want to be liked. There is real work to be done and someone has to do it. Professor Turley, I start each day with this column. I think you missed the ball on this one. Those eight Republicans are not the problem. They are a symptom.

    1. Why does trump and all his acolytes like you use language more appropriate for 4 year olds? Calling people names? Really. How about poopy pants? That should really get people in a tizzy. Simple question, why are trump and so many of his supporters unable to stop acting like 4 year olds throwing a tantrum?

    1. They are more amendable to compromise than republicans.  Democrats won’t use threats and intimidation to prevent a compromise.  They don’t see compromise as treason.   Only republicans do and they just showed everyone they believe it by ousting the speaker for doing something the founders would have done.  Things move forward when compromise is reached.  It means nobody gets everything they wanted, but everyone gets something they can live with.  

      It’s MAGA republicans like Gaetz who declare any sort of compromise as capitulation to the “enemy”.   You can’t govern with those kinds of views in a democracy.  His views only work in an authoritarian system.  They don’t represent their constituents they want to rule. That’s why compromise is seen as treason against the party despite the fact that the rest of the party doesn’t share that view,  but most are too cowardly to challenge it for fear of Trump and his supporters going after them. 

      1. Abolish the filibuster and then
        Add two states
        Abolish the electoral college
        Pack the Supeme Court with liberals

        The Democrats already attempted this and only Joe Manchin stood between them and NEVER COMPROMISING EVER AGAIN. So don’t tell us what Republicans “would” do. If it weren’t for Joe Manchin, we would be under one party rule. End of argument.

        1. Do you realize what I am saying? We were literally “this close” to losing our democratic republic altogether. This was your party that attempted it. They were ONE VOTE away.

          And they immediately, after it failed, start projecting about “protecting democracy”.

          Give me a break.

  4. Had the positions be reversed, not a single Republican would have voted to keep Pelosi Speaker.

    1. I doubt Pelosi said that, as she does not control the votes of other Democrats. Nothing prevents KM from lying about it. And if you don’t think McCarthy abused his powers, you’re biased.

  5. I don’t believe that there is any reason they could not elect someone who is not a member of the House as Speaker. Newt Gingrich? Tulsi Gabbard? Scott Walker (former governor of Wisconsin)?

    1. @edwardmahl,
      I’m with you, there are plenty of; reasonable, good, fair-minded People that are not part of the D.C. Mind-Set available.
      The job take the ability to reason while dealing with people that are unreasonable from both sides.
      That said it is kind of a Thankless Duty and rewards would be few. (for that matter, so is the Presidency these days)

  6. The entire system is broken. What we really have is essentially a uniparty. I’m not sure how things will evolve, but we certainly live in interesting times.

    1. @Anonymous
      “The entire system is broken” It’s a “systemic issue”.
      When one leg of the three legged table fails, the table topples over.
      Everyone is saying that ‘It’s not right’ (something is wrong) but it continues to carry on.
      The J6 Crowd was saying it, The Media is displaying it, Citizens sitting at Home are feel it, and it’s not just this Country.
      The World is thinking it – Something’s Not Right with the United States.

      We have lost all Self Respect and the respect of the World.

  7. When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence they didn’t have much of a plan either. They just knew they couldn’t bear the tyranny anymore. Turley would have advised them to close their eyes and think of England. I don’t know what’s going to come of this but somebody had to stand up.

  8. Matt Gaetz wanted to oust KM because he had a few Dems vote with him and he ended up voting with 7 Republicans and over 200 DEMOCRATS.

    Matt Gaetz needs to go, the 7 others that voted with him need to be shunned. Nancy Mace was moving up and now she is ruined to millions of us. I hate what she did and I will never support her for VP or even President if she ever decides to take that absurd step.

  9. Short version….never make promises you cannot or shall not keep.

    McCarthy agreed to the “Vacate” movement when he was struggling in winning the Speakership.

    He also promised no more CR’s and Omnibus Spending Bills.

    That he lived up to part of his promises is fine but the devil is in the details….he did not live up to the promises….and in fairness probably could not for reasons beyond his control.

    Gaetz and the others who voted to remove him need to learn from Ronald Reagan…..better to get most of what you want when it comes to making compromises than refuse to compromise and get nothing.

    Now…we see the Republicans struggling once again in trying to elect a REPUBLICAN Speaker of the House…..which means the Can’t Shoot Straight Gang shall have to…..compromise.

    Anyone care to bet  that shall happen?

    On a side note….evicting Pelosi despite having a really feel good side to it….was not a battle that needed fighting just as was vacating the Chair as was done.

    Did either move work to deal with funding, the border, corruption, Ukraine, or any other genuinely serious problem confronting the Nation?

    The Eight let the Democrats win…..there is no debating that fact.

    The Eight are not winners at all in any measure…..they are spoil sports of the worst kind.

    Had their votes enabled certain progress then they would be heroes…..but instead they are just “heels”.

      1. There is a vast gulf between being indicted and being convicted. There is a vast gulf between a biased lower court conviction and a appeal decision. 

    1. The Republicans’ rules prevent Trump from serving as Speaker because he’s been indicted for a felony.

  10. Huh? Democrats were in no way obligated to help McCarthy. They had no reason to. McCarthy was weak and ineffective and untrustworthy.

    You are such a retard.
    Turley NEVER said the Dems were obligated to help McCarthy. He made the point, clearly and concisely, that at one time politicians defended the institutions of our republic. This would have been one of those times.

    Not help McCarthy. Help the House of Representatives

    Disagree with Turley all you want. But stop lying about the content of his posts.

  11. 1. McCarthy was a controversial candidate from the start. He appealed to some but not all. He only squeaked in.
    2. McCarthy made & gave assurances that he would tow-the-line & stay-the-course. The conservatives in the party that reluctantly supported him in his speakership quest relied on his keeping his word.
    3. McCarthy abandoned his promises & relied on Democrat house members to get his continuing resolution passed in the House. McCarthy caved & schemed rather than seeking alternative solutions to a bad continuing resolution.
    4. McCarthy failed the Loyalty test just like Mitch McConnell has. The Republican conservatives wanted a different outcome & concessions on other spending priorities, but were waylaid by McCarthy’s political treachery.
    5. The continuing resolution was a key leadership test & McCarthy knew very well that the conservative Republicans were unhappy with that solution, yet he carried on regardless.
    6. Conservative Republicans in the House wanted & needed to hold Biden* & his cohorts to task, challenge his spending priorities & end his America Last policies. McCarthy just couldn’t do it.

    Failing to satisfy his own parties wishes, breaking his leadership promises & using the Democrats in his power play, all demonstrated that he was just part of the swamp. Better to eject this disappointment now before he can do greater damage down the legislative road.

    1. When youhave a 4 seat majority and 8 morons who fight you on everything you need to negotiate. Hatman will lose the good aiming for the perfect. Watch and see Hatman, things will only get worse going forward. KM did as good of a job as possible. Matt Gaetz is a narcissistic fool.

  12. This is probably the most-clueless piece that Turley has ever written. It reads like it was commissioned by Garbage Fox or The Garbage Post.

    1. Ah yes, its ole Ralph again. BTW Ralph, don’t like what you read here, you can always post on your own blog.
      No one forced you to comment come here.
      Too bad you dont have the intellectual capacity, experience and recognition as JT.

      1. LOL — Another fascist clown saying if you disagree, go somewhere else. Apparently this blog is only for people of one mind. I’m not surprised that Turley has the likes of you defending his defense of the OLD, SPENT republican party that doesn’t represent republican voters. When I leave, Turley can go back to agreeing with Michael Avenatti.

  13. Incremental, planned, orderly change is not possible in this political environment of determined progressive change.  Just imagine:  DJT is re-elected and the Republicans carry at least one chamber.  How will the people backtrack from open borders, the green agenda, crime, renegade prosecutors and judges, woke culture, or election fraud?  Think we can do all of that in an orderly, planned, incremental process?  Please, I am NOT arguing for authoritarianism from the top but I am arguing for Republicans to admit that there is a real non-kinetic civil war in this country and if we do not behave like we want to win, we won’t.  Gaetz may make us uncomfortable, but so do Pelosi, Schumer, Newsom, Biden, Harris and a dozen Mayors and Governors.  Time to buckle up our collective helmets.   

  14. You think this all about Trump? It’s war in the USA. Take no prisoners. Destroy liberals.

    1. Another TDS victim. As for the chaos, you say the Reps. are responsible? It was the Dems who got rid of McCarthy. Count the votes.
      Seriously, what planet do you live on? Washington DC?

      1. The Republicans are the ones who moved to vacate and the Democrats couldn’t have gotten rid of KM without votes from Republicans.

        1. “The Republicans are the ones who moved to vacate”

          Wow really bug boy? No one knew but you. Thanks so much for your brilliant insight!

  15. We have yet to know whether or not Gaetz, as well as the others in that crack suicide squad, have hoisted themselves by their own petards!

    1. I kinda agree, ZZ. Tactically, it was asinine, but strategically, it could go either way.

      If the economy holds, it will make the GOP look like the Italian parliament, but if the bottom drops out, the GOP might get credit for those who refused to cave.

      A lot of reputations are now at stake, but maybe that’s what it takes. We’ll see.

      The great strength of the Democrats is their lockstep voting. The great weakness of the Democrats is their lockstep voting. The DEBT would be nothing without their group think. Sooner or later, they will live or die by it.

      1. Darren, I’ve descended into the bug-infested underworld of the Anonymii. Not sure how that happened.

  16. did you notice the Rule of Law is DEAD in America…as the Democrats fight their Civil War…against America?

  17. you prefer the status quo of GIVING Democrats EVERYTHING as the Country is Burned to the GROUND by Democrats?
    Millions of illegals, pushing drugs, billions to ukraine for WWIII, Fascist destruction of Republican with Kangaroo Courts and 100% Corrupt DOJ….
    Federal Deficit this year…is
    $30,000 per Child
    $6,500 per American
    $17,000 per Household!

    Federal Debt…is
    $550,000 Child
    $121,000 American
    $300,000 Household

    1. What no one has mentioned it was the backroom swamp deal with Democrats that was the trigger. Another 300 million to Ukraine. 33 trillion in debt and Ukraine has a blank check.

      What about the southern border?

      Gaetz makes another point. Why didn’t McCarthy issue a subpoena to Hunter.

      This reminds me of Star Trek: Going where no man has gone before.

      As for me I’m good with the government getting a good kick in a$$.

      1. The best part was the Speaker pro tempore evicted the squatter Pelosi from the Speaker’s office.

        Gaetz threw one rock and knocked out two birds.

      2. “… it was the backroom swamp deal with Democrats that was the trigger.”

        Bull’s eye. And it’s not as if that was a surprise to McCarthy. He was the pilot of the plane and intentionally crashed it into the side of a mountain. Turley and Fox and the NY Post are all pretending to not understand what is obvious because they’re all paid to help the old republican party that has been rejected by republican voters return, republican voters be damned.

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