This article is part of the The DC Brief, TIME’s politics newsletter. Sign up HereGet stories such as this delivered to your email every weekday.
Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy rose at 8:38 p.m. Thursday, ostensibly to speak in opposition to Democrats’ social-spending and climate bill. However, it became obvious that McCarthy was trying to audition for the post of Speaker.
And by the time he wrapped at 5:10 a.m.—eight hours and 32 minutes later—it was clear that he had an audience of one: ex-President Donald Trump, a figure who is still widely seen as the true commander of the Republican Party and stillMcCarthy’s inaction to help Trump after the election defeat was criticised.
McCarthy has stated that Trump had to be kept close so that they could prevent him engaging in more extreme behavior. So McCarthy rose as a sign of repentance to the 45th president. He criticized the Nobel Peace Prize committee for denying Trump the recognition and blasted Democrats for two impeachments: “It was all lies.” He took a personal dig at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for taking three trips to Europe in the last three months on what he mused might be her “farewell tour” and offered without evidence that she might leave office before this term ends. He ridiculed her fancy refrigeratorAnd Ice creamHe slid into a fake female voice, mimicking her comments at 2:20 a.m. And McCarthy repeatedly claimed China unleashed COVID-19 on the world—despite new Be skeptical about the virus’ origin raised just hours earlier in a widely respected journal.
McCarthy is ambitious, but not one that doesn’t care about details. He’s had his eye on the Speakership since he served as the recruitment chairman for House Republicans and helped to usher in the Tea Party wave of 2010. He’s the only self-proclaimed of all three. “Young Guns”to be able to continue to elect Republicans, while the remaining two Dispatched WhatTrumpist politics would be now. McCarthy’s not a shoe-in for the Speakership if Republicans win in 2022, though. He You are being soughtThe gig was previously held in 2015, but he had already lost it. It seemed as though a loss was near, so he dropped it at the very last moment.
Now, he’s again WithinThe job is within his reach. But to get it, he will need Trump’s blessing. One bad word from Trump can sink McCarthy’s ability to win the majority of the 435 voting members of the House. It’s why McCarthy ReversedCourse Thursday, and said that he wouldn’t just reinstate censured Rep. Paul Gosar’sRep. Marjorie Taylor also has committee assignments GreeneThese are two highly polarizing characters to put it mildly. McCarthy also revealed at his news conference that Trump phoned him from the golf course that morning.
Then there’s the not-so-quiet rumor rumbling through conservative circles that Trump himself may prefer the role of House Speaker, one fueled by comments made by Trump’s last chief of staff, himself a former House member. If Trump is the heir, it could seem like a very spiteful moment when Pelosi passes the gavel to her successor. Trump would benefit from a perch on the Capitol for his campaign in 2024. The Speakership comes with a lot of great perks, such as the ability to use a government airplane and the role of third in-line for the presidency. The Speaker does not have to be elected. While Congress never elected a Speaker from a nonmember of the House, America has never seen a President as Trump.
McCarthy, however, is pretending to be part in the hand-off. “I want her to hand that gavel to me. I want her to be here,” McCarthy said, again repeating the unfounded rumor that Pelosi’s resignation was imminent.
At another point, he was explicit—even if that candor was unintentional. “Where’d the Speaker go? Did you fall?” he asked. “Can I be Speaker?” he inquired at the five-hour mark as the Democrats took turns presiding over the House.
Democrats were clearly upset that they decided at midnight to defer the vote to Friday morning, and left the chamber. “Kevin McCarthy has now shown more anger about making child care affordable than he has about the insurrection on January 6th,” tweetedRep. Mondaire, Jones from New York. McCarthy was also criticized by others who mocked him at times and made fun of his inability to achieve what could have been an important win for Biden’s Democrats.
But, in perhaps a strategic error, McCarthy’s delay now puts the vote at the start of the day and denied the bill the epithet of being “passed in the middle of the night.”
McCarthy also repeated all of the GOP’s greatest hits, alleging Democrats want to “Defund the Police” and are soft on China for its role in COVID-19 pandemic, seek to take away private property and embrace a socialist posture. He pulled out the strings of culture wars. “I don’t think the Taliban cared about the pronouns in the military,” he sneered. He recalled the tale of AllegationsThe sexual assault on a female student was perpetrated by a transgender student at suburban D.C. schools. Fears of unsafe neighborhoods for kids, unrelenting immigrants crossing the Southern border illegally and wanton joblessness lurk behind every corner in McCarthy’s telling.
“Every American city is set to become a border city and a sanctuary city,” McCarthy said as the clock ticked past 2 a.m. Fear-mongering 101 was at the core of this strategy, which is now a road map for the GOP as it heads into the midterm elections. Two weeks ago, it worked in Virginia as Republicans beat Terry McAuliffe to the governor’s race. McCarthy reached just six hours, and McCarthy invoked the results. Two Democratic incumbents were from Virginia districts, which voted for Republican Glenn Youngkin, by margins between 8 and 11.
McCarthy, however, was back in Washington trying to prove himself worthy of the top job. He inflated its total cost to $5 Trillion, even though the Congressional Budget Office’s scorekeepers estimated it at $1.68 TILLION over a decade. He treated Biden’s Justice Department as out-of-control spies on parents, the IRS as a force to knock on every American’s door and Biden’s one-party control of Washington as a threat to U.S. democracy.
“We will not allow America to fall further behind as the Biden Administration has,” McCarthy promised if Republicans retake the majority next year. “I think you’re fighting to make this a socialist country,” McCarthy told the Democrats.
He is the Republican Leader and one of only three House legislators who has full access to his speech without any time limits. It’s the House version of the Senate filibuster, although deployed far less frequently and unlike its Senate sibling, can’t be shut down by anyone. The stunt is unlikely to derail Biden’s Build Back Better Act, although that fact didn’t stop him from taking advantage of every opportunity afforded him in what is known on the Hill as a Magic Minute. This allowed him to offer a sometimes rambling critique of the spending bill, with a history on Reconstruction, Cold War, and Reaganism. A mini-history was given by him. Washington crosses the Delaware the portrait of America’s first President that hangs (as a reproduction) in McCarthy’s conference room. He seemed to enjoy provoking Democrats, who sometimes heckled him. Then he realized that McCarthy was using a lengthy delay tactic and was just settling for it.
“I’m just getting geared up,” he said at 11:35 p.m., three hours into the show.
He noticed that the majority of Democrats were now home an hour later. “I don’t know if they think they left, I would stop,” McCarthy said. “I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to the American people.”
McCarthy finished the meeting just before 5:05 a.m. In a factoid that only Congress nerds will appreciate, McCarthy surpassed Pelosi’s legendary Magic Minute, which went eight hours in 2018This was widely believed to be a House record until today morning.
It’s impossible to have a speech of this length and expect it all to make sense. McCarthy is not known for being a gifted orator. His success was in managing friends and fundraising. McCarthy is not a great orator so you can forgive him for saying some words that don’t make sense. His desire to be in Tiananmen Square for protests in 1989 and Germany in the aftermath of the Berlin Wall’s fall would not have baffled even the most generous audience. Add to that McCarthy’s disclosure that he might have a little headache during his overnight talk-a-thon from his third COVID-19 booster shot.
He also provided plenty of ammunition for his critics. He said that he had his first vaccine on January 6, when Trump stirred up the National Mall crowd to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election. McCarthy, supported Trump’s efforts to undermine the results, said he had had a bad reaction to the jab. “I got the chills. I got the shakes—for a lot of reasons,” McCarthy said in a very tone-deaf recollection on a day that saw a violent mob storm the Capitol.
In the end, however, it was all about McCarthy’s performance in the House leadership role should Republicans triumph in November. He noted that in his time in the majority, the GOP never lost a procedural motion—an insider boast as an organizer. He already announced potential changes to the rules. “No more proxy voting. You’re going to have to show up to vote,” he said. He said he was going to remove the metal detectors from the House chamber. This is a second layer in security that was put into place following Jan. 6. He indicated that he might remove several Democrats from any committee. “Don’t worry, there will be many more (without committee assignments) next time,” McCarthy said.
If that doesn’t sound Trumpian to you, you’ve not been paying attention to Trump’s capacity for retribution. McCarthy should also remember that Trump’s loyalty is at best weak. McCarthy was in the United States for four years. ServiceTrump, but could find his bid for the House givenl unsuccessful if the ex-President wakes up with a different idea.
Washington: Make sense of the important things Subscribe to the Daily D.C. Brief Newsletter