Senate Republicans were dismayed after their House colleagues voted Tuesday to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — a first in American history — paralyzing the House and increasing the likelihood of a Government shutdown increased again next month.
With no House speaker, no clear successor and a small band of insurgent Republicans who appear ready to overthrow the government at any cost, the question of how Congress avoids a costly budget crisis is now even more difficult to answer.
“It’s a path to chaos. It’s like a shutdown,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) told HuffPost, adding that the power vacuum in the House will make it difficult to pass legislation.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) called McCarthy’s ouster “disgraceful.”
“We saw something similar happen [former GOP House Speaker John] Böhner, [Paul] Ryan and now McCarthy. I am sure the next speaker will face the same terrorist attacks,” Cornyn added.
A handful of Republicans and almost all Democrats supported a resolution introduced Tuesday by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) to declare the speaker’s office vacant. The vote was 216 to 210, making McCarthy the first speaker in history to be removed from office in this manner. His term lasted only nine months.
Gaetz and his allies accused McCarthy of being untrustworthy and too willing to defer to Democrats. McCarthy, meanwhile, said Gaetz had a “personal” vendetta against him and accused him of sabotaging conservative policies.
House Republicans are expected to vote next week to choose a new speaker, assuming they find someone to take on the job. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) was appointed interim speaker pro tempore by McCarthy.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said McCarthy’s ouster served no purpose and linked him to grievances that have sidelined the last three Republican speakers of the House since 2015.
“It’s chaos for the benefit of some people who, quite frankly, are designed to be in the minority. Matt Gaetz and a few others are designed to be in the minority,” Cramer said. “The minority is a very easy place to wreak havoc and get people to support you because you have no real government responsibility.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said a faction of House Republicans is unwilling to accept the reality of spending when they control only one house of Congress and Democrats control the Senate and White House.
“They just haven’t found a sophisticated way to recognize that you can’t do everything right away, it takes time,” he said. “And what is perfect should not be a restriction on doing something good. Unfortunately, a lot of people over there want to be perfect or not at all.”
Asked what her constituents might think when they see Republican dysfunction in Congress, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of the GOP leadership, said: “‘Are you guys crazy?’ That’s what they think.”
Cramer joked that anyone willing to become House speaker now would only do so “because they hate themselves.”
“You are unhappy. They believe in self-flagellation,” he said expressionlessly. “The only reason you do it is because you believe you can make a difference and bridge the great divides. Kudos to everyone who thinks that and wants to try it.”