Professional Republicans and conservatives in Washington right now are lamenting the unceremonious dumping of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the behest of Rep. Matt Gaetz and that’s understandable. When you meet McCarthy, you are immediately struck by his attention to detail and his eagerness to please. He’s a gregarious backslapper, always willing to make a deal and help people around him feel better.
It’s great for fundraising. Under McCarthy, Republicans hit record hauls for the next political cycle as the Speaker made his way across the country promising to deliver results and helping Republicans win a slim majority in the midterms.
He struggled, however, to win the affection of Republicans in early January as he repeatedly failed to earn the votes necessary to be appointed speaker.
To finally woo the votes he needed, McCarthy ultimately made a deal with Gaetz and a small number of Republican holdouts that he would stop passing continuing resolutions and omnibus bills in favor of regular standalone legislation.
He also promised to restore the rule allowing a single member to file a motion to vacate the office of the Speaker. He knew it was dangerous and was troubled by the idea, but former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi approached him and promised that she had his back.
“She said, ‘Just give it to them, I’ll always back you up,’” McCarthy recalled during a frank press conference with reporters after he was ousted.
McCarthy also revealed he made a little side deal with the White House on the issue of Ukraine funding, promising to fix any issues that would have come up from the 40-day stopgap bill to keep the government open.
Ultimately, he was determined to prevent a shutdown and gambled that the establishment would reward him for temporarily warding off an embarrassing news cycle, while his critics would stand down.
A deal with Pelosi, a deal with Gaetz, a deal with President Joe Biden, a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. By trying to deal with everyone, someone was bound to be unhappy.
"The one thing Democrats, Republicans, the White House, that we all have in common is that Kevin McCarthy, at one point or another, has lied to all of us," Gaetz said, responding to McCarthy’s “bring it on” dare by filing the motion to vacate.
It turned out, seven Republicans were already tired of the speaker who was running business as usual in Washington. Predictably, Pelosi’s reassurance to back McCarthy evaporated.
“Judge me by my enemies,” McCarthy concluded to reporters as he wrapped up his press conference exit. That sentiment works when you are in power, but not when your enemies are celebrating your humiliating defeat.
Perhaps the next speaker will have fewer enemies in the Republican Party and make fewer costly deals to get there.
Charlie Spiering is a Wyoming native who works in Washington, D.C., where he continues writing about the White House, Congress and national politics. A former writer for Breitbart News, The Washington Examiner and columnist Robert Novak, Spiering frequently returns home to the family farm in Powell to escape the insanity of Washington.