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. By 11:00am, there were 113 comments/replies posted to this article, and 69 of them were posted by “Anonymous.” That’s roughly 61% “Anonymous”

    Any guesses as to how many of those “Anonymous” posters were the same person of people, and how many of them also posted comment/replies under some other pseudonym?

    1. The change to the comments section has been a tad painful. I actually commented as an Anonymous by accident today and I am a semi-regular on here. Regular enough to miss the good old days when there was only a few Anonymous folks and only one of them the idiot we all ignored. You know, the way we ignore Dennis.

  2. 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.

    Well, while the statists have protected the “regular order,” the American people have suffered the consequences. This is how a list of grievances against a regime grows. Everyone should be familiar with the self-evident truths in the DoI.

    That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    This is logical next step. The question I and many others have is will to alter or to abolish look like? It certainly is not “regular order.” We still have the possibility of returning to “constitutional” order peacefully.

    1. I’m with you, Olly. We seem to be in the minority, but something like this had to happen to knock DC off balance.

      What’s next? Who knows? I do know that we have to change course to survive as founded. 

      1. Im not so sure Olly means what he has written. He writes of the Founding Fathers and the many men and women who toiled to make this nation. All very well and good. However, Americans today gasp and adopt tantrums when their electricity and internet service are interrupted or a hurricane hits their homes (all of which I have endured many times). Look at the teeth gnashing about the possible Government shutdown. These aren’t the traits of warriors, patriots or heroes fighting for freedom. 

        Americans today do not know the sacrifice and loss of life that those before us endured ~250 years ago. Does Matt Gaetz strike anyone as Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay? A fighting soldier…sans cocaine, young prostitutes and theatrics?  Gaetz sided with Democrats to depose Kevin McCarthy after years of declaring them evil. So now Democrats are right on one issue for Gaetz? 8 Republicans know better than their 200+ conference members with Gaetz being their spokesman? Talk about breaking one’s word to fellow conference members, as Newt Gingrich recently stated. 

        I have been telling patients for 40+ years to lose weight, quit smoking, adopt healthy nutritional habits, make vigorous exercise part of their life at a minimum of 3x/week, and more. Either they have been deaf or I am dumb to think they would embrace such a “sacrifice”.  Obesity today is off the charts. Americans just dont care.

        The Jan 6 rioters who crashed the US Capitol were obese, out of shape, tattooed, unkempt slobs who walked away from their jobs and families, so they they could take selfies at the US House. Who can forget the white married bearded dude who stole the podium of the Speaker of the House, while waving and giggling like a gurl. These folks are unserious. Gaetz, et al are unserious. Then again, Congress critters and the US Presidency since Newt Gingrich-Bill Clinton era have been unserious

        You want a revolution ala 1775? Who is going to fight with you and watch your back? Matt Gaetz?
        So unserious

        Cancer is rarely cured. It is at best delayed, goes into remission, but as a genetic disease, usually returns to devour. Our nation has had metastatic cancer for decades. There is no cure. As I have stated many times, we do well to practice self-care (physical and mental health preventative care), care for our loved ones, those in our midst using our gifts and resources, and those who request our assistance. Otherwise Americans do not want to undergo the painful surgery and toxic chemotherapy to rid the metastasis. They have had cancer all along but relished their carcass becoming putrid. I see evolutionary principles at work. Those who are fit survive. Those who are not do not. 

        American Revolutionary War: Casualties and losses

        The total loss of life throughout the conflict is largely unknown. As was typical in wars of the era, diseases such as smallpox claimed more lives than battle. Between 1775 and 1782, a smallpox epidemic broke out throughout North America, killing an estimated 130,000 among all its populations during those years.[40] Historian Joseph Ellis suggests that Washington’s decision to have his troops inoculated against the disease was one of his most important decisions.[412]

        Up to 70,000 American patriots died during active military service.[413] Of these, approximately 6,800 were killed in battle, while at least 17,000 died from disease. The majority of the latter died while prisoners of war of the British, mostly in the prison ships in New York Harbor.[414] The number of Patriots seriously wounded or disabled by the war has been estimated from 8,500 to 25,000.[415]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Revolutionary_War

  3. Apparently he has broken 3 records:
    1- Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) was elected speaker of the House after four days and 15 ballots, resuscitating a chamber that had been paralyzed as it endured “the longest struggle to elect a leader since before the Civil War.”
    2- Republican Kevin McCarthy this Tuesday became the first speaker of the US House of Representatives to be impeached
    3- It was the third shortest speakership in history.

    https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2023-01-06/mccarthy-speaker-jan-6-anniversary
    https://edition.cnn.com/2023/10/03/politics/house-speaker-shortest-kevin-mccarthy-dg/index.html

    1-Kevin McCarthy’s debacle underscores the GOP’s deeper troubles
    thehill.com/opinion/campaign/3800276-kevin-mccarthys-debacle-underscores-the-gops-deeper-troubles/.

    2-Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is far from assured of winning sufficient support in his party to become House speaker next month. But even before the vote, his authority is already weakening by the day – in a way that could make him a speaker who is in office but not in power.
    edition.cnn.com/2022/12/14/politics/kevin-mccarthy-speakership-battle-analysis/index.html

    3-McCarthy, McConnell Clash Over Republican Leadership in Congress
    newsweek.com/mccarthy-mcconnell-clash-over-republican-leadership-congress-1767476

  4. “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.”
    ******************************
    Expurgation is good for the soul, especially so when you have a RINO stuck in there. And the words “chaos and disruption” perfectly describe our times with rampant inflation, a corrupt buffoon for a chief executive, crazy interest rates, a wide open invasion on our Southern border, a woke epidemic in the military and society as a whole as well as a political party controlling the Presidency and one house of Congress that can only be described in classic Western terms as “evil.” So maybe throwing over the status quo and that smarmy, obsequious Speaker isn’t such a bad prescription. The old bromide that “if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging,” seems to fit here. And there’s another hoary platitude that comes to mind too about staying the course as the ship heads for the rocks. While that situation certainly has the benefit of a blissful, uncrowded berth and calm waters, its devolves into something quite different when the wooden hull meets the damp boulders at ramming speed. McCarthy had the rudder pointed that way with the dull-witted Dims at the oars and Biden as coxswain banging out the cadence drum.

    In pace requiescat, Kevin. You were a of moderate virtue when the times called for the more resolute variety.

  5. I liked McCarthy. I liked his approach to impeachment and many other things. I also support his removal. The continuing resolutions had to stop. We have an imperial presidency and have had it for a while. Actual spending bills need to be passed.

    1. MB, your comment makes no sense. KM was in a bind and he could only do what was possible. The Gang of 8 sabotaged him and set him up for this insanity. Gaetz will fall and he will fall hard. He didn’t have Chip Jones, Boebert, MTG or Donalds, but idiots like Nancy Grace and a few others signed their political death warrants by trying to be big shots and voting against 210 Republicans and with 200 Democrats. Jerks and idiots.

      1. hullbobby: Most Americans DID NOT and DO NOT want the government to shut down. Most Americans expect that members of Congress understand that compromise is necessary in order for our government to operate, and that any ultra right-wing measure that would somehow pass the House would probably not pass the Senate, and Biden wouldn’t sign it into law either. So, holding out for getting your way and forcing the government to shut down would only backfire–voters will hold it against those extremists who cause our government to shut down.

  6. This is all inside baseball. Nobody outside 495 cares about the intrigue. Just stop the CRs and Omnibus bills, impeach Majorkas and Garland, and hold the new speaker to her/his word. 

  7. It is impossible to have a civil political culture stemming from an uncivilized society. Until/unless we remedy the diseases within our sociey and culture our political culture will decay in to savagery. Instead of hounding the second rate statesmen now residing in the swamp we should turn ALL of our efforts in cleaning out the pernicious elements that have changed us into a nation of narcissitic, thuggish philistines.

  8. Once again the fanatics on the Right prove themselves as mindless as the fanatics on the Left, and vice-versa.

    1. This is NOT a both-side’s issue, the party that once was called republican, is no more. They have brought this all on themselves. The quicker they run from trump, the quicker they will heal.

      1. Trump is only the loud, in-your-face spokesperson for a movement that pre-existed before he ever came down that escalator. He saw the movement festering without a republican willing to take on the job and he grabbed it. To think that eliminating Trump, the individual, from the movement and thereby stopping the movement shows your ignorance of that movement. Look back to what was being said since Reagan left office and you will find your answer.

  9. We need a meaner, more evil Speaker to compete with the hardball politics of the democrats. The Pelosi troops are as disciplined as any CCP honor guard. 
    I’m glad the new temporary speaker disrespected Nancy Pelosi by kicking her out of her hide-a-way office.
    It sets the atmosphere of no more Mr. Rollover… we shall see. It is better than nothing. Generational change is not going to be classy, because this is the House, ferchrisakes: “The Middle School of America”.  

  10. No, you said the first two years of THIS administration.  

    “Did they compromise the first 2 years of this admin??? ”

    Republicans are the ones in charge. They can’t pass legislation that moderates don’t agree with without democrats support. 

    Pay attention man. 

  11. Chaos in Congress is in line with Chaos in the Country, and this time is truly different. The party just started and 1929 will look like a walk in the park, especially as economic disaster ensues, courtesy of the Uniparty. Get a 9mm, at least.

  12. Dear Professor Turley, in your piece you say and I quote” 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. This is not one of those times.”.

    I differ sharply. Now is the time. There is chaos in our Country. The House has had months to pass the spending bills. Speaker McCarthy obstinately refused to let the American people see the actual amount of money in the “budget “ for say, the State Department, or Of Education, etc. we need to know now. Can you afford more than your gross monthly income to pay interest on your home, credit cards, etc? I say not. You are not paying down principal at all. Any American will fail, flounder and loose their Life’s work in their Fsmily, Life and Liberty. 

    The greatest threat to us is Chaos in our country because we all go broke when the United States goes broke. Next year each month we must pay the Federal Reserve $2 Trillion dollars in interest only! We do not have the revenue each month to do this. THIS IS CHAOS.

    I’d rather begin moving recalcitrant politicians out of office than die a slow debt death. Don’t be so glib with us, Mr. Turley, we are more informed and see what games are played year after year to result in the “Chaos of the Omnibus Pill” that is why the government has no clothes anymore – we see that.

    As to the glue? Removing the bandaid is painful. 

    I WANT TO REMIND YOU, THST WE THE CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES SRE THE GLUE, and we will be working hard to force the elected government representatives to do their jobs in open televised fashion.

  13. Well said, Prof. Turley. If Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose I.Q must surely be a single digit, were ever responsible for forming a firing squad, it would be circular.

  14. And please, stop calling this the Republican Party. That institution died in early 2016 with the rise of trump. I voted for far more Repos than Demos in my life. No more, the last Republican in congress has decided not to run when his current term expires. It has become fully the fascist racist trump party.

      1. Bill and Fish: I concur, but more ominously than the current Republican clown show, consider the facts: Trump can’t even run his own businesses without incurring lots of debt, getting sued for refusing to pay his debts and taking bankruptcy 6 times. He’s in court right now for constantly lying about his wealth and assets to obtain loans and insurance on more-favorable terms. His sham “presidency” was an absolute disaster from which we are still recovering economically. Everything in his life is all about getting attention, adulation and praise–all to feed that ego. He refuses to accept responsibility for his actions and refuses to accede to authority–for example, he constantly insults the judges before whom his cases are filed and falsely accuses them of being partisan. He posted the name of Judge Engoron’s chief staff member and her personal information and then lied about her being friends with Chuck Schumer. He refused to accede to the authority of the NARA and stole classified documents, lied about returning them and forced the government to seize them. If he should, somehow, get into power and without any consideration for another term AND if Republicans were to gain control of Congress, America as we know it would cease to exist. Trump has already said he’d appoint an AG and agency heads that would do his bidding. He has threatened to prosecute and has spoken of execution for his perceived enemies. There would be a national abortion ban. LGBTQ citizens would have to go back into the closet because discrimination would be allowed and even encouraged. All of the culture wars nonsense pushed by the far-right would become law.–banning books, shunning transgender children and denying them treatment. All for what? The ego of an utterly incompetent, unethical, sociopathic narcissistic liar who craves power and an impotent political party that used to stand for family values, respect for the rule of law and the Constitution that has chucked its traditional values to try to get power.

        1. Gigi

          Engoron is a pedophile and Trump is going to be the 56th Speaker and then the next President. And Abba will be the first lady!

          45 for 56 and 47!!!!

          Cutting off genetalia is “treatment” for dysphoric adolescents. Nice.

          Who wants to pack the Supremen court with more justices?

          Who wants to add 2 states so we have 4 more Dem senators?

          Who wants to abolish the filibuster?

          Who wants to abolish the electoral college?

          “to try to get power”?

          “utterly incompetent, unethical, sociopathic narcissistic liar who craves power”

          Why, it’s Joe Biden!!!

          Maybe you should leave the conversation to the adults, dimwit.

  15. “including the refusal of a single Democrat to prevent the House from going through a week of unnecessary turmoil”

    And what did McCarthy offer the Democrats? Lies They did not trust him, he gave them no reason to believe anything he said. This chaos falls squarely at the foot of every voter that believes the fascist racist maga end of the trump party. You get what you vote for.

  16. For those who want Trump as Speaker, see rule 26(a) of the House Republican Conference rules for the 118th Congress: “A member of the Republican Leadership shall step aside if indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed.”

    1. Changing the rules requires the same votes as electing a new speaker. The adults already know this.

  17. Former advisor for Paul Ryan and John Boehner lays out the electoral case against Republicans:

    “We are not a party fit for governing. We are more fit for being a party in the minority.”

    1. I believe both Boehner and Ryan were more than content to be the “minority” party. The “easy street” for them. Question important issues but only enough to get a sound bite, but don’t dare try to lead. I get so tired of hearing the news cycle play the “John N. Kennedy” clever quotes and tag lines. Makes great sound bites but he accomplishes absolutely nothing. 

  18. McCarthy is a Paul Ryan / John Boehner Republican. Business as usual, don’t upset the apple cart, don’t challenge anything the Washington machine wants. I began to lose faith in Republicans living up to their promises when Boehner was speaker. Paul Ryan absolutely disgusted me. The McCarthy speakership was a continuation of the Paul Ryan philosophy. I doubt that I am the only previous “loyal” Republican to have been disenchanted by the Boehner/ Ryan / McCarthy dynasty. Quite frankly, I just don’t care what the Republican Party does any more. 

    1. @Anon

      😂😂😂 

      Yes, and he’s always after me Lucky Charms, too! You are ridiculous. Glad MSN was there to tell you what to think. 

          1. I have looked at the video and it is misleading to say that Trump “quoted” Hitler or that Hitler was talking about migrants. First, Trump did not purport to quote Hitler but merely used the phrase “poisoning blood”. That phrase was not copyrighted by Hitler, nor likely even invented by Hitler. Anyone can use it with attitributing it to Hitler. Second, it is clear that Hitler was not discussing migrants, let alone illegal migrants. His discussion in Mein Kampf related only to Jews, who had lived in Germany far longer than Hitler himself. https://www.wm.edu/offices/auxiliary/osher/course-info/classnotes/ extractsfrom meinkampf.pdf. Third, Trump is clearly talking about actual diseases carried into the country by unvetted immigrants. He mentions diseases in the next sentence after referring to poisoning of the blood. This is a valid concern. Traditionally, someone with a serious illness, such as tuberculosis, would be denied admission to this country. But now there is no control. Hitler, on the other hand, was clearly denouncing miscegenation. Id. at P. 5.

          1. If it were AI generated, Trump would already be suing them. It’s real. You just don’t like it. Strange, I’d think you’d agree with Trump on this.

    2. The left always projects. It is amazing that the fascists in Germany wanted to eliminate the Jews, but now the Jews in the US democrat party are the leaders in instituting fascism in the US – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – censorship, political persecutions, corruption, corporate/government surveillance schemes and profiteering schemes. fascinating.

  19. Professor, every once in awhile something happens which exposes truth in a way the public’s perception sharpens.  This is one of those times.

    Your analysis really ignores an enormous groundswell of disgust with the lack of courage and decisiveness our Republican leadership to deal with issue’s threatening our Republic: weaponized government , usurpation of Constitutional oversight, open borders, destructive spending.  Gaetz and the others understand and articulate this groundswell flawlessly, time and again, without rehearsals or poll tests.

    This ignorance exposes your long association with the DC machine and communicates a sort of “listen to us, Junior, you really haven’t been around enough to understand what’s best for you” arrogance and you aren’t alone.  In the last week I’ve heard such condescending admonitions directed toward Gaetz by Maria Bartiromo, Laura Ingraham, & Newt Gingrich, for example, and boy oh boy, dies it ever scream entitled entrenchment.

    I encourage you to listen carefully to what Rush Limbaugh used to call, “the collective wisdom of the American people.”  

    Kevin McCarthy thought he could ignore his own conferees and escape removal with support of the opposition who gave him a CR. How many R members knew of that assurance before last night? How foolish he was to depend on the people who are actively destroying our Republic.  He depended on the lover who cheated to stay faithful.  Foolish, foolish man.

    You’re making an argument to maintain the honorable decorum of a body which lost any semblance of it long ago. Those 8 members are being vilified today for what?  For doing what we sent them to do!  Change Washington.

    Nothing, NOTHING has exposed the true game like the betrayal of McCarthy’s promises to his conference his betrayal of the Republican voters, by extension.

    We now see why when we finally get the majority, they’ve  squandered the opportunity over and over again.

    We’re done with business as usual.  It’s time for true leadership if we have any hope of saving the Republic for future generations.

    Republicans better understand, when they come after those 8, they are coming after us.

    1. “Those 8 members are being vilified today for what? For doing what we sent them to do! Change Washington.” — 10,000 upvotes!

    2. Gaetz and the rest of them…Them being the entire democrat house?

      Granny62 nailed the zeitgeist and your trolling, your lack of understanding that the democrats willfully want less democracy when they have power and want chaos when they are not. Well, your ignorance is not going to solve anything, but I suggest you prepare for plenty more chaos, because the ademocratic democrats have tasted power for the last time in a while.

      Dust-off your pussy hat and prepare for another 2016-style insurrection, black riots, school shootings, and all the rest of the flagellations of a dying brand of governance – marxist-social-democrats in the US. Run to europe if you like being a domesticated animal, the non-xanaxed here have had enough.

      1. “Gaetz and the rest of them…Them being the entire democrat house?”

        No, pay attention man.  Gaetz  and the rest of them meaning the rest of the freedom caucus.  Good god man don’t you read for comprehension?  Do you not know how to follow context?  

    3. Excellent observations, Grandmama. Turley has forgotten the common man’s plight our current political body completely ignores as often as the rest of the cabal in DC. He’s been practicing “when in Rome…” far too long now.

    4. “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.”
      And, McCarthy believed and relied on this? What a fool. Assurances from Nancy Pelosi of all people.
      Unfortunately, the days of compromise noted in this article appear to be dead in today’s politics. https://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2012/12/17/167250343/what-shut-the-back-door-to-congressional-compromise

    5. Granny: the gist of your post is that you seem to think that Republicans and especially the far-right, represent the value sand views of most Americans. They don’t and never will. You also bought into the idea that the values and views of the alt-right will somehow “save” America. Once again, most Americans disagree with you.

      1. She never said far-right. The right, and center right, make up a huge percentage of the nation.

        The left and the far left represent media, globalist big businesses and hedge funds, people who have been ‘educated’ (not to be confused with educated people), and a massive number of middle class white chicks with abortion fetishes. Get rid of abortion from the debate and the left would never win another Senate or Presidential election and would be sequestered to majority-minority craphole districts and ultra-weathy ones. So you can pretend the left is anything more than it really is, a bunch of collectivist wannabe fascists and their army of low-IQ criminals and abortion fetishists. The left offers nothing to mankind, only to its few chosen one leaders.

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