The Circus Opens With A Clown Parade

[ Posted Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023 – 15:58 UTC ]

I knew that Kevin McCarthy would be weak, but I have to admit I didn't expect he'd prove to be this weak, this soon. As I write this, the third vote for speaker is in progress [note: while editing this, the House adjourned until noon tomorrow...]. McCarthy will lose this one, just like he lost the first two. So far, the votes have been functionally identical: 212 votes for Hakeem Jeffries (the Democratic leader), 203 votes for McCarthy, and 19 votes for other Republicans. On the first vote the "other" was split, but in the second round and (so far) the third, the GOP opposition has lined up behind Jim Jordan. Who actually voted for McCarthy. In other words, the three-ring GOP House of Representatives has opened with a clown parade.

Nobody, at this point, has any clue how this is going to end. The House cannot do anything else until the speakership is resolved. They are going to vote over and over again until things change. They could adjourn, but whenever they start up again they'll still have to get through this vote. As we've all learned, this is only the second time since the Civil War and the first time in 100 years that we've had a deadlock in the speaker vote. In 1855 and 1856, the voting went to the 133rd round and lasted two months.

I doubt that it'll take that long this time, but you never know. The entire thing hinges on the most radical Republicans not being stubborn and playing nice with all the other Republicans. But this isn't just the Tea Party anymore, these are MAGA Republicans now, who are primarily known for two things: believing lunatic conspiracy theories and being stubborn. The word "reasonable" is never used in the same sentence as any of them, to put this another way. They have been taught by their Dear Leader that politics is nothing more than show business, and that the bigger and uglier splash you make the better. Even that selfsame Dear Leader's plea to them to vote for McCarthy didn't convince them, so they seem pretty dug in at this point.

One way out of this mess would be for the House to adopt different rules for the election itself. In 1856, they voted that the person with the most votes would win the speaker's gavel, even if they didn't manage to get a majority of the voting chamber. The next vote produced a speaker. However, that option doesn't even seem open to McCarthy, since if those rules were adopted then the Democrat would win -- Hakeem Jeffries would be the next speaker.

Another way out also seems closed to McCarthy. Previous speakers -- including Nancy Pelosi -- have managed to win the vote even with defectors from their own party, by convincing the defectors to cast a protest vote of "present" rather than naming a competitor. All "present" votes are not counted in the total, meaning that the "magic number" to get elected goes down below 218. But again, even if all 19 GOP dissenters voted "present" this time, it would indeed lower the threshold of victory to 208 votes -- which would also result in a Jeffries win.

There are two viable ways out of the wilderness that I can see, at this point. The first would happen if the Republicans got together and agreed upon a compromise candidate for the job. This almost certainly wouldn't be either McCarthy or Jordan, and could literally be anybody (speakers do not have to be current sitting House members). But could the two sides actually agree on anyone, at this point? That seems doubtful, but the longer this goes on the more the pressure will increase to cut some sort of deal. Maybe they'll bring back Newt Gingrich, who knows? Or hand it to Sean Hannity... like I said, it really could be anyone.

The other way out of the deadlock would be for some Republicans to cut a deal with the Democrats for some sort of compromise candidate. It's hard to imagine who could fit this bill, since it would likely require the entire Democratic caucus (or the vast majority of them, at any rate) to accept the person as speaker. Which would pretty much rule out all the sitting Republicans, it would seem. Is there some retired Republican politician who everyone could live with? It's hard to think of anyone, but perhaps they exist -- some GOP elder voice who had served in a Democratic president's cabinet or had some similar bipartisan experience? And even if such a person exists, would they really accept the job? The only name that pops into my mind as even being possible is Liz Cheney (which would truly be amusing to watch for the next two years).

Those really do seem like the only two ways out, unless McCarthy makes enormous promises to at least 15 of the people who have voted against him three times now. Oh, I correct myself (after checking the tally)... now McCarthy will need 16 more votes as Jim Jordan actually picked up a vote in the third round.

Of course, Democrats are wallowing in all this delicious schadenfreude. After all, every hour spent proving to America that the Republican Party is in massive disarray is an hour not spent on whatever lunatic ideas they're planning on implementing once they do get a speaker. They could hold a couple hundred votes and spend months, and all that time would be less total time for the GOP to cause damage in Congress.

The one thing it proves is something I've been saying since the midterm election results were known -- that America is moving from one of the strongest and most effective speakers in its history to what could be the weakest "leader" ever. [I use scare quotes there because Kevin McCarthy is many things, but a leader is just not one of them. He more resembles an invertebrate than a leader, truth be told....]

Before Nancy Pelosi, the phrase most often used to describe the Democratic leadership job in the House was "herding cats." Back in the 1990s, Democrats were not united and it was always pretty easy for the Republicans to pick off a few of them to get their way. Pelosi ended all that, and the House Democrats today stand more united than they've ever been.

By all rights, the media really should start using the "herding cats" metaphor for Kevin McCarthy and his ungovernable fellow Republicans. But, as I said at the very beginning, I prefer a more festive image. Send in the clowns... and let the circus begin!

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


17 Comments on “The Circus Opens With A Clown Parade”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Once again, for a few hours, the software decided (on its own) to turn off the comments. Sorry for the delay, and mea culpa.

    This is why I need to upgrade the site!



  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Speaking of which, you should check your mail box. :-)

  3. [3] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I dunno about the “herding cats” label applying to today’s GQP. Cats are generally antisocial critters each doing their own cat thing, a characterization that truly describes Dems.

    Repugs aren’t as atomized. Basically every ten of them support McCarthy and the eleventh is a Freedom Caucus insurgent.

    We have two groups of [insert name of spineless species that moves in groups] here.

  4. [4] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Let the dumpster fire begin.

  5. [5] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    If I was McCarthy I’d tell the Repugs,

    I am not withdrawing my name from consideration. What I am withdrawing is every last promise I made to any colleagues who have a better candidate in mind than I. Giving away the power of the Speakership just to win the title isn’t worth it so come see me when y’all get it together.

    It’s a variation of the reason that Dems can (and do) take the Black vote for granted and Repugs can (and also) likewise take the Evangelical vote for granted — where are they gonna go come election time?

    McCarthy is the only game in town but his general cowardice keeps him from acting like it.

  6. [6] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    if i were hakeem jeffries i'd be making mccarthy as sweet an offer as i could safely manage, to cut ties with the crazy.

  7. [7] 
    Kick wrote:


    [I use scare quotes there because Kevin McCarthy is many things, but a leader is just not one of them. He more resembles an invertebrate than a leader, truth be told....]

    I know, right!? Your statement there just reminded me of the most ignorant thing I heard somebody say during the day's circus, and it was hard to choose from among the abundant stupid:

    If you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise. I'm a Florida man, and I know of what I speak.

    ~ Matt Gaetz

    Three things:

    (1) While alligators are cunning and powerfully strong reptilian vertebrates, Kevin McCarthy has proven himself to be a moronic inveterate invertebrate pile of chickenshit.

    (2) It appears no one explained to the self-described "Florida man" that adult American alligators are, in fact, apex predators of the swamp... meaning, the only natural predator of an alligator in the wild (beyond humans who invade their territory, of course) is a bigger alligator. If you wanted to drain a quagmire full of various assorted swamp creatures, the "biggest alligator" is exactly what you would need. Idiot.

    (3) Referring to yourself as a "Florida man" is only a compliment to other stupid people who are also actually ignorant male Floridians.

    The problems of the GQP are many but consist primarily of the fact they have no platform, no actual plan to speak of, and no real leader because they allowed themselves to be eaten alive, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't fun to watch them flailing.

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    What would that make Donald, a Burmese python?

  9. [9] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Given that there's no reason to expect any beneficial action from these House Republicans, should we hope that the election of a Speaker drags on as long as possible? At least they can't do any substantial harm (except to the reputation of Congress and to a lesser extent to that of the US government in general) as long as there is no Speaker.

  10. [10] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    the devil you know.

  11. [11] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    I would say there are worse candidates than McCarthy, but I fear that he may become little more than a puppet for some of the nutcases.

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    Our government is funded until sometime in September. The Debt Limit will become an issue around July

  13. [13] 
    Kick wrote:


    What would that make Donald, a Burmese python?

    In addition to being a "Florida man" is he also an invasive non-native snake that will consume small reptiles and occasionally a large American alligator?

    Well, Trump's own mother meets his definition of "snake" -- the poem he performs in order to dehumanize immigrants -- and he's definitely his mother's spawn... so I'd say he absolutely qualifies based on his own criteria, which also makes his first and third wives snakes and only one of his children not a snake.

    Good point. :)

  14. [14] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    Speakership Hopes Fade as Jeffries Still Six Votes Shy

    I know, I know I’m disappointed, too. So close and yet so far thanks to residual racism in America.*sigh*

    But in the face of this, at least the Dems are practicing Joe’s Summer of ‘20 political strategy and appear likely to realize similar good results. I call it the Basement of Sun Tzu’s Parents Strategy and is summarized as When your enemy is destroying himself step out of the picture and simply let it happen.

  15. [15] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    The twenty (plus one R voting “present”) renegade Repugs are not only attracting attention and donor dollars to themselves but, in the spirit of meanness that infects parts of the GQP, I also think they’re punking McCarthy simply because they can.

    Flip flopping on Trump just days after having had to flee Trump’s mob told everybody that he has no spine whatsoever. Rejecting McCarthy against The Donald’s endorsement will also serve to further marginalize Trump’s hold on the party.

    It’s like Thanks Uncle Donny, we’ll take it from here! And thanks for the Judges!

  16. [16] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    This was written at 1330/1:30 after the sixth ballot, whence McCarthy’s 201 is two less than the first ballot. Recessed until 8PM Leastern Timezone.

  17. [17] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    So if I were the Dems, the moment five Repugs vote against McCarthy the remaining Dems should immediately and unanimously vote for the black Republican. Just to,

    1- eff with them. One Repug renegade said Dems are drinking in the Chambers, laughing at the proceedings, so they objectively have it coming.

    2- show the country that Dems have so much more party discipline and cohesion under the leadership of Hakeem Jeffries! than these Repug clowns in the House. Hell, they could claim that they were trying to be bipartisan. Ahem.

    [Correction: it seems McCarthy got back to 203 on this latest ballot.]

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