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Three strikes and you’re Kevin McCarthy

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At no point during the past few months has it appeared that Kevin McCarthy was even close to having the votes to become Speaker of the House. The only question heading into today’s vote was whether McCarthy’s recent flurry of wheeling and dealing was going to land him the votes at the last minute. Now we’ve gotten that answer, in resounding fashion.

In the first round of voting, McCarthy came up several votes short. In fact so many House Republicans declined to vote for him, Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries actually led the vote total. In the second round of voting, McCarthy came up short by the same embarrassing vote total. Then in the third and final round of voting for the day, McCarthy actually lost a vote and came up even more short.

This means Kevin McCarthy really did go into today knowing that he didn’t have the votes, and with no plan for getting holdout House Republicans to cave on the second or third ballot. He really is that weak and clueless. It also means that a significant number of House Republicans are so intent on sowing chaos, they’d rather risk having no Speaker at all than fall in line behind McCarthy.

The kicker is that regardless of how the process plays out from here, House Republicans have already done a significant amount of damage to themselves. They’ve taken an already weak Kevin McCarthy and further weakened him to the point that he’ll be completely powerless even if they do end up belatedly relenting and making him Speaker. And they’ve ensured that tonight’s and tomorrow morning’s media headlines will be all about how the House Republicans are inept idiots.

Some of McCarthy’s biggest critics publicly insisted weeks ago that they had a secret dark horse Speaker candidate lined up. But if that’s the case, why wasn’t this candidate put forward on the second or third ballot? It makes you wonder if they even have a candidate, even before getting to the question of whether or not that candidate could get to 218 votes.

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Regardless of what bumbling and babbling idiots these Republicans may be, there’s always been the presumption that they must know what they’re doing on some level, and have at least some semblance of a strategy. But today’s humiliating debacle suggested that Kevin McCarthy really is just a clueless deer in the headlights with no strategy behind his actions, and that a number of House Republicans really are loony enough to be willing to sabotage their own party’s prospects just for kicks.


We’ll see what happens tomorrow. It’s hypothetically possible that some faction of House Republicans quietly has some kind of savvy plan in place that’ll result in someone getting elected Speaker. But up to now we’ve seen no evidence that any such plan exists – and if such a plan were to be revealed, today should have been the day.

Meanwhile House Democrats are more united than ever. With the House Republicans caucus in chaos, it’s a near certainty that House Democratic leadership is spending the evening attempting to convince the six least-crazy House Republicans to join them in electing a compromise Speaker. This would be an extraordinarily difficult needle to thread. But if House Democrats can somehow pull it off, it would be the political move of the century. Stay tuned.

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