Why is Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) so determined to rain on the Republican Party House parade?
On the heels of a decisive, if impressively difficult victory in passing a stop-gap spending measure in the House in the nick of time, Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted this week by a tiny cohort of conservative doomsayers led by Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL).
“Speaker McCarthy ousted in historic House vote, as scramble begins for a Republican leader,” reported the Associated Press yesterday.
After defeating a motion to table any motions to vacate the Speakership, Gaetz made just such a motion, thwarting McCarthy’s supporters during a fraught time in the House.
With the margin of the majority so small in the House of Representatives, political analysts and party insiders have been predicting just such a showdown would happen sooner or later. With a majority so thin, any Speaker — Republican or Democrat — can afford to lose vanishingly few votes from within their party.
Just a couple of party hardliners or holdouts could easily delay legislative progress indefinitely — Or at least until Democrats can wrest House control back from Republicans in 2024.
The same is true in the Democratic Party. Hyper-progressives, ultra-conservatives, and/or opportunistic grandstanders looking to raise their political profile can exploit the situation to advance legislative priorities, gain concessions, or even for personal gain.
Beyond the obvious fundraising opportunities afforded by courting so much press attention, there are other potential benefits for politicians like Gaetz, who may be more interested in their long-term career prospects than good governance or even getting reelected.
A lucrative book deal, a stint as a media personality with a conservative news outlet, better post-office job prospects, and more are up for grabs for those with more mercenary ambition than party loyalty or dedication to public service.
While news outlets will declaim — as loudly as they did during the 15-vote contest for House Speakership in which Kevin McCarthy ultimately emerged victorious just a few short months ago — that public Republican infighting of this nature proves how damaged the party has become, the exact opposite is more true.
Pubic infighting may be bad for the party’s reputation — though there isn’t any reason it should be — but it is excellent for the country.
These types of power struggles — the push and pull between the forces of conservatism and progressivism, town versus country, and class wars — are a part of politics and a healthy democratic process.
Robust, public debate on a variety of pressing social issues is the lifeblood of democracy. It's better to have it all out in the open — as messy as it may be — than conducted out-of-sight via backroom deals and aliases.
Republicans should be applauded for airing debates so publicly. There isn’t anything shameful or untoward about inter-party political disagreements.
Good-faith debates between House Republicans would help move along the Republican agenda. Done well, they could even persuade independent and undecided voters to vote Republican in 2024.
Initiating pointless power struggles to leverage personal and professional gain does the exact opposite. Judged on their own merits, Rep. Matt Gaetz’s recent actions seemed designed to elect someone else House Speaker: Democrat Hakeem Jeffries.
As Minority Leader, Rep. Jeffries has already proven himself a fierce competitor and stalwart check against the Republican agenda.
Were Jeffries up for a vote, every single Democrat could almost certainly be persuaded to support him. Were Jefferies and the Democrats able to secure the votes of a scant few Republican contrarians — like Gaetz and his ilk — Jefferies could easily become the next Speaker.
The latest news from the House is that now-former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy does not intend to try again for the Speakership. Meanwhile, Republican Jim Jordan — erstwhile beloved of the very House Freedom Caucus for which Gaetz presumes now to object to McCarthy’s leadership — appears to have enough support to secure a nomination to the post of House Speaker.
If Jordan can persuade 4 of the 8 Republicans who voted with Democrats to oust McCarthy, he may be able to cinch the ultimate House Leadership post.
But whatever happens, whoever holds the gavel next — Republican or Democrat — may soon be facing a similar revolt.
The country, like the House and the Senate, is almost evenly split. With leadership margins that slim, extremists on both sides of the aisle have far more sway than they would otherwise.
Until that situation changes, the House’s next Speaker will have their work cut out for them.
(Contributing writer, Brooke Bell)