Capitol Hill was in a frenzy. Republicans were in chaos. Pundits were left speechless. Congressman Kevin McCarthy dropped a bombshell on the political sphere when he announced he was withdrawing his name from the Speakership race on Oct. 8.
Congressman McCarthy was the odds-on favorite to become the next Speaker of the House. He was supposed to be the one who could accommodate the extreme wing of the party while also being moderate enough to get things done. Yet, that didn’t end up being the case and Republicans are in turmoil.
His downfall started when he implied that the Benghazi Committee was formed to torpedo Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers, but there was a greater force at play: The Freedom Caucus. Without the support of the 42 far-right congressional Republicans, McCarthy would have faced an uphill battle from his own party on making any deals to keep our government funded and running.
Think about that for a second. A political party, as usually defined, is a group of people that share common views and come together to make those views a reality. Yet, Republicans were unable to coalesce and pick one person to represent them as Speaker. The GOP this week resembled nothing close to a political party and is more fractured than ever.
Republicans can’t afford this type of discord heading into an election cycle. The Freedom Caucus, representing less than a quarter of all Republicans in Congress, exercised undue influence and pulled the party further right. The race for Speaker was postponed, which gives more time for infighting among Republicans. John Boehner, who most Conservatives trashed after his resignation, will be staying on longer for Speaker. No matter how you slice it, this is disastrous for Republicans.
The Speakership has become a political deathbed. The eventual Speaker will have to deal with a portion of the party that is allergic to compromise and has little interest in getting things done. Undoubtedly, the next Speaker won’t be conservative enough for some Republicans. Conservative pundit Sean Hannity has already said Congressman Paul Ryan, who’s on the shortlist to become Speaker, is not the guy because he won’t be aggressive enough in challenging the White House.
Yes, Paul Ryan – formerly Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate – is already being called not conservative enough by some. An Ayn Rand enthusiast who is against same-sex marriage and wants to slash Medicare is too moderate. If he isn’t the guy whom Republicans can unanimously support, then who is?
This is the problem with the far-right taking the Republican party hostage. As the Freedom Caucus gains more influence, conservatives move further to the right. Forget Democrats; Republicans can’t even agree among themselves.
McCarthy just may not have been up to the task of being Speaker and that’s fine. It’s a politically tricky position to occupy and doesn’t suit everyone. However, the debt ceiling needs to be raised and another spending bill is due to be up soon. The government needs to run and function. Republicans better get their act together quickly or else they’ll face a long winter of turmoil.