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Would GOP, other factors eclipse a McCarthy bid to become House speaker?

Are there other factors or the GOP that could overshadow a McCarthy-style bid for House Speaker?


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Earth’s shadow first skimmed the edge of the moon’s disc at 2:18 a.m. ET last Friday. This was also the starting of the “Beaver Moon,” the longest moon eclipse since 1440.

Also, this means that Christopher Columbus, who was sailing in search for a route to Asia, would not have set sail until 52 years after the event.

House Republicans haven’t searched for a House speaker they can all truly rally around for 580 years.

At the very least, it appears that way.

Maybe it was just right that Kevin McCarthy, R.-Calif. was 5 hours 38 minutes into his speech on Friday when the eclipse occurred. By daybreak, McCarthy’s verbosity became the longest speech in House history.


McCarthy’s oratory was the longest speech since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., set the mark of eight hours and seven minutes in February 2018. McCarthy clocked in at eight hours and 32 minutes when he finished before dawn Saturday – with the eclipse still going. 

On its face, McCarthy’s speech was a screed against passage of the Democrats’ social spending bill. But in reality, McCarthy’s declamation was part of a campaign – a stump speech for McCarthy to become speaker of the House should the GOP capture control of the chamber in the 2022 midterms.

Treacherous path

Here’s why it’s been such a treacherous path for Republicans when it comes to their selection of House speaker over the years.

Return to the end of 1998 Republicans have had enough of Newt Gingrich R-Ga, former House Speaker. Nearly losing control of the House during the 1998 midterms, the GOP was almost defeated. After a thorough ethics investigation, Gingrich was declared damaged goods. 

Gingrich was seen as overplaying his hand in the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton. Gingrich was defeated by Clinton in a dramatic government shutdown in 1996 and 1995, according to political analysts.

Gingrich was forced to step aside.

Bob Livingston, a former Rep. from Louisiana, was elected by the GOP as Gingrich’s successor. But on the very day the House voted to impeach Clinton in December 1998, Livingston announced he wouldn’t stand for speaker in January 1999. Livingston admitted to having a marriage infidelity.

Tom DeLay R-Texas, then-House Minority Leader, was the next obvious choice. DeLay however, was radioactive.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert was elected from near-obscurity to move up the GOP leadership hierarchy. 

An odd choice

Even though DeLay was a troublemaker for the GOP’s party, Hastert was an unusual choice. But Republicans figured Hastert’s low-key, under-the-radar style was likely a good option after the bombastic Gingrich.

Hastert went on to become the longest-serving Republican House speaker in history – even though he was a second-tier default candidate by the GOP.

That said, it was always suggested that it was truly DeLay pulling the strings behind Hastert’s façade.


In 2006, Republicans lost control of Congress. Hastert didn’t seek leadership in 2007, and he resigned later that year. 

It took the public until 2015 to discover that Hastert had made illegal bank withdraws in order to conceal his illicit activities. According to the federal authorities, Hastert made illegal bank withdrawals in an effort to suppress allegations that he had molested teenage girls decades before as a wrestling coach at high school and history teacher. Hastert was then the most senior U.S. official sentenced to prison.

DeLay, who was struggling with his ethics in the latter part of 2005, resigned from his position as leader. DeLay was tried and convicted in court. He was later exonerated. The damage was done.

Enter Boehner

John Boehner (R-Ohio), the future House speaker, defeated Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in a race for DeLay’s majority leader position. Few anticipated Boehner’s victory. Boehner became the easy choice for Republicans in January 2011, when he was elected speaker. The House was now in control thanks to Republicans, who had won a remarkable 63 seats.

Boehner, however, had problems from the very beginning.

Ohio Republican John Boehner retired from Capitol Hill as House speaker in 2015. (Reuters)

Voters elected many Tea Party conservatives who were outraged at government spending. ObamaCare helped propel the GOP to the majority. However, some of the demands by voters – and promises made by Republicans – weren’t realistic. ObamaCare wasn’t repealed by the party. In late 2011, Republicans won a small victory in deficit spending. But the spending cuts weren’t deep enough to satisfy some conservatives.

Boehner was dragged by the Conservatives through the debt ceiling crisis. He had to agree with President Obama about spending during the summer 2011 and the government shut down in fall 2013.

Former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., was supposed to be Boehner’s successor. In 2014, Cantor was undoubtedly beaten in his primary. Cantor was forced to resign. McCarthy became the majority leader of the party.

Some conservatives had grown tired of Boehner by the time it came to choose a new speaker in January 2015.

Boehner remained. Barely. 

For years, wrestling

We now get to the heart of Republican struggles with the House speakership in recent years. A House speaker needs to receive the full House vote, and not just the highest number of votes. There are 435 members to the House. A successful candidate for speaker must garner 218 votes.

The House can’t conduct business until it elects a speaker.

This exercise of electing a speaker consumed months in 1863 before the House finally settled on Speaker Howell Cobb, D-Ga. – on the 63rd ballot. In 1923, Speaker Frederick Gillett (R-Mass.), had to cast nine votes over three days in order to secure the required votes. A vote for speaker hasn’t gone to a second ballot since that vote to elect Gillett.


However, in January 2015 there was a rebellion by tea party-affiliated Republicans who wanted to undermine Boehner.

They failed to succeed in their coup attempt.

Boehner held on to his speakership as January 2015 saw a few members absent during the Congress’s first day. This means that the House started with much less members than normal. That’s because so many members were absent attending the funeral of late New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. The House had yet to swear-in those members when it took the speaker’s vote. Boehner benefited from the smaller House’s size in that Congress.

Meadows resolution

However, détente didn’t last long.

Mid-July saw then-Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) craft a resolution to threaten Boehner. Meadows’s resolution would “vacate the chair” and force a vote for a Speaker election in the middle of the Congress. 

Meadows didn’t act in any formal way on his resolution. Boehner received the message. Boehner resigned in September.

McCarthy was McCarthy’s next in command. McCarthy looked as though he had it all for a week.

Mark Meadows once crafted a resolution that served as a threat to John Boehner.

Some Republicans thought McCarthy might be Boehner’s second-coming. Rumors swirled about McCarthy’s personal conduct. McCarthy committed a faux pas during an appearance on Fox. McCarthy suggested that Benghazi’s investigation by the GOP was done to undermine a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.

One reason that Republicans wanted to kneecap McCarthy was because they were looking for an excuse. Fox was told by a top McCarthy adviser that McCarthy would lose the 218 votes required to win a speaker’s floor vote. 

McCarthy pulled out of the race in the final minute.

Republicans came up with a variety of solutions.

Future House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he wouldn’t run. As an alternate candidate, Rep. Dan Webster (R-Fla.) stepped in. Former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, ran. Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, was open to running. Lynn Westmoreland R-Ga, was the same. 

Krauthammer as a speaker?

Republicans were so split that it was almost impossible for anyone to win an absolute majority of the vote to be speaker. Even talk of House Republicans creating a non-member speaker was heard. That’s never happened. Some Freedom Caucus members tinkered with Charles Krauthammer, the columnist who died in the pursuit of the speakership.

It is not necessary that the speaker must be a member.

Some Republicans once floated the idea of nominating Charles Krauthammer to become House speaker.

You’ll find more information on this in the next few moments.

After much teeth gnashing, the only consensus figure Republicans liked was Ryan – who wasn’t interested.

Ryan gave up and accepted the position of speaker. Ryan might not have stepped up and won the speakership. Republicans would still be waiting until after the next lunar eclipse for a choice of speaker.

Ryan was the only one who held this job up until Jan. 3, 2019. Pelosi became speaker.

We are now back at McCarthy.

McCarthy has a better chance of becoming speaker if the GOP wins the House in 2022. Some forces still oppose him. Many moderate GOPers believe McCarthy is the man who single-handedly revived former President Trump’s career following the January Riot. Some others believe McCarthy is too established. Marjorie Taylor Greene of the Republican Party of Georgia views McCarthy “weak.”

Many grudges exist.

The winning candidate must achieve an outright majority of the entire House to become speaker – not the most votes.

Trump as speaker

Re-enter Mark Meadows, the former president’s chief of staff, who tried to vaporize Boehner’s speakership in 2015.

Meadows started a debate on his podcast. Meadows is known for his political Molotov Cocktails and he criticized McCarthy for letting 13 GOPers cast their votes for the infrastructure bill. Some Republicans would like McCarthy to remove those Republicans from their assigned committees. 

Meadows stated that she would like to see Donald Trump’s gavel pass from Nancy Pelosi. “You talk about melting down. They would all go insane.”

“I’d love for the gavel to change from Nancy Pelosi, to Donald Trump. You talk about melting down. You would all go insane.”

— Mark Meadows

It’s unclear how serious this scenario is. But considering the standing of the former president in the party, if Mr. Trump wanted to be speaker, it’s unclear how McCarthy would fare in a 2023 floor vote.

This highlights the difficulties Republicans experienced in trying to unite around a House Speaker candidate. Six years later, Ryan won the election after an extremely difficult struggle behind-the scenes. Boehner got a pass – at first. Some of the issues the GOP is facing when choosing a speaker stem back to Gingrich’s resignation in the 1990s.


The possibility of President Trump becoming speaker could be one of America’s most remarkable political moves. Perhaps even more improbable than Mr. Trump’s surprising victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

To become the speaker, President Trump will need a majority in each House. 218 votes.

A battle this intense may take 580+ years to resolve if Republicans must choose between McCarthy or the previous president.

It’s just like an eclipse.


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