The Comically Bizarre Reasons These 3 Republicans Ousted Kevin McCarthy

From alleged bullying to feminist shortcomings, few politicians in history have achieved this level of public humiliation—and by his own party no less.

The Comically Bizarre Reasons These 3 Republicans Ousted Kevin McCarthy
Photo:Alex Wong (Getty Images)

Over the last three-ish years, we’ve witnessed two impeachments, an insurrection, and now, the first removal of a Speaker of the House in U.S. history. On Tuesday eight House Republicans coalesced around Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), allied with a unified Democratic caucus, and voted to oust now-former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in an unprecedented move.

Gaetz and the handful of (mostly) far-right freaks who joined him espoused, for the most part, fairly predictable reasons for going after McCarthy: They didn’t appreciate the stop-gap bill McCarthy shepherded through with Democratic support to avoid a shutdown over the weekend; McCarthy supports Ukraine; he broke too many promises to the far-right’s Freedom Caucus; he’s a member of the D.C. swamp, yada yada yada.

But some of the reasons they provided were just… downright hilarious.

Take Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), for instance. Mace’s vote to remove McCarthy surprised me, as the Republicans who united against McCarthy—Gaetz, Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Ken Buck (R-CO), Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), Bob Good (R-Va.), and Matt Rosendale (R-MT)—proudly associate with the far-right and more conservative fringes of the party. Mace, meanwhile, presents as so moderate that some of her loudest criticisms often target her own party.

Following her vote against McCarthy, Mace explained her decision by citing his failures on women’s rights while addressing reporters at the Capitol: “I made deals with Kevin McCarthy… that he has not kept to help women in this country. And we have done nothing for them,” Mace said. She specifically pointed to her work on a rape kit bill that McCarthy’s ostensibly ignored, referenced her experience as a survivor, and added, “If you make a promise, you should keep it. And if you promise women you’re going to help them, then you damn well better do it. So as a fiscal conservative, I’m angry. As a woman, I am deeply frustrated.”

OK… fair enough… But as an adult with the capacity for critical thinking, I, personally, didn’t go into any of this with the expectation that Kevin Owen McCarthy was going to emerge as a feminist champion. Even more bizarrely, Mace, who’s previously dragged Gaetz to hell for fundraising off his January efforts to block McCarthy’s speakership, has been fundraising off her own vote against him as of Tuesday afternoon. Oh, how the turntables…

Shortly after Mace specified her reasoning, McCarthy implied (during his unhinged afternoon press conference) that Mace was just posturing. He claimed her chief of staff personally called to tell McCarthy that he hadn’t broken promises and that said chief of staff tried to explain this to Mace; the ousted Speaker then offered the Mace staffer a job if she fires him over this revelation. (I repeat: It was an unhinged press conference!)

Burchett similarly offered a comically peculiar explanation for his move against McCarthy, alleging that the California Congressman bullied him for his religion. According to Burchett, when McCarthy called him on Tuesday morning to ask for his support ahead of the vote, McCarthy “belittled me and my belief system, and that pretty much sealed it with me right there. I thought that showed the character of a man.” Specifically, Burchett—who, like McCarthy, is a Christian—alleged that McCarthy “mocked” him for saying that he was praying on his decision over how to vote.

“When someone mocks me like that, and mocks my religion, and honestly, the Bible is pretty clear about God being mocked, so that’s what sealed it right there for me,” he explained to CNN’s Jake Tapper, who regarded Burchett with a furrowed brow. The last time Burchett received this much attention was after the Covenant School shooting in his state earlier this year, when he declared, outside the Capitol, that “We’re not going to fix it.”

But my personal favorite explanation has got to be from Arizona’s Eli Crane, whose existence I’ve only previously clocked because two months ago, on the House floor, he referred to Black people as “colored people.” In a Tuesday morning tweet, hours before he voted against McCarthy, Crane claimed Republican “leadership” (read: McCarthy) “folded and passed measures with more Democrat support than Republican.” Ironically, of course, McCarthy’s removal relied almost entirely on Democrats with only a fringe sliver of Republican support. It’s politicians like Crane, honestly, who give Veep a run for its money.

As for Gaetz’s own reasoning, he’s delivered one round of slimily rehearsed remarks after another, claiming McCarthy “failed to take a stand where it matters,” funneled too much money to Ukraine, and been too friendly with Democrats, even as McCarthy’s extremist record begs to differ.

But more than anything, Gaetz’s fight with McCarthy really just seems personal. Last week the two apparently tore into each other at a closed-door caucus meeting in which Gaetz accused McCarthy of hiring right-wing influencers to trash him on social media; to this McCarthy shrugged and told the Florida Man he doesn’t care enough about him to pull such a move. It’s pretty clear the two just hate each other’s guts and there was nothing McCarthy could have reasonably done to appease Gaetz.

Now, in the aftermath of McCarthy’s removal, the House is without a Speaker and chaos reigns as everyone blames each other. McCarthy, who also said he regrets helping elect the Republicans who ousted him, is nonsensically blaming Democrats, who never had any reason to help him.

This, despite Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) spending Tuesday night meticulously breaking down his every frankly stunning misstep leading to his removal on Instagram Live. For starters, Ocasio-Cortez noted that Congress was supposed to be on recess this week, only to be called back by McCarthy for no specific reason. McCarthy also personally waived his right to 48 hours to try to whip the vote, and instead of negotiating with Democrats, he spent the last several days touring cable news outlets and smearing them.

At the end of the day—or, rather, the end of McCarthy’s short tenure as Speaker—Gaetz and his rag-tag team of Chaotic Evil goons can only be blamed for so much. McCarthy’s no longer Speaker, in large part, due to his own incompetence.

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