Two of the Republican congressmen that led the charge to oust House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have nothing but pride for the decision that has left the lower chamber of Congress speakerless and impotent for nearly three weeks.
Virginia’s Bob Good and Florida’s Matt Gaetz told a crowd of roughly 100 at a breakfast fundraiser at Callie Opie’s Orchard Restaurant in Mineral Saturday morning that McCarthy was the wrong man for the job and that the right man will likely be found sometime next week.
In explaining their calculus, at one point Good recalled a moment where he “begged and pleaded” with McCarthy not to compromise with Democrats.
Don’t make a deal, he said to then-Speaker McCarthy. Shut down the U.S. government.
“We were willing to throw down and risk shutting down the government to achieve anything,” Good, who represents Virginia’s 5th District, said.
McCarthy refused. Instead the California Republican helped to pass a bipartisan resolution on Sept. 30 that narrowly avoided a shutdown which would have kept thousands of federal workers and U.S. military personnel from getting paid.
It was a bridge too far for Good and Gaetz.
“We felt like we had reached the point where that was such an egregious violation that we had to take the risk,” Good said of McCarthy’s compromise.
The risk Good took? Ousting McCarthy from the speakership, marking the first time in American history a speaker of the House was voted out of the job. Three weeks later, the position remains unfilled, effectively rendering the lower chamber of the U.S. Congress powerless. The House is now stuck in a vicious cycle, trying and failing to agree on a new candidate in the Republican majority to lead.
Rep. Jim Jordan is the latest member to attempt to take the vital seat. But in three separate votes, the Ohio Republican came up well short of 217: the magic number needed to attain the speakership. Now it seems Republicans will have to try again with someone else.
“I don’t think Jim Jordan is going to be a candidate going forward,” Gaetz told The Daily Progress after Saturday morning’s fundraiser. “We respect him. We like him. We voted for him multiple times on the floor. But we’re now to a new stage of the speaker contest, and we’ve got some great candidates.”
Not long beforehand, Gaetz had told the crowd gathered that Jordan’s candidacy failed because of animus toward himself and Good.
“Bob and I, we sensed that our colleagues were angry with us for having sent the shock through the system, and that’s why they weren’t voting for Jim Jordan,” Gaetz said. “If you’re mad at us, don’t take it out on Jim Jordan.”
While critics say the GOP is in disarray, Good and Gaetz framed the ongoing struggle as necessary for the betterment of the country.
“We’ve had the first national campaign for speaker that’s ever been waged, where the American people are weighing in on who they wanted to be speaker,” Good told the audience. “We had a contest instead of a coronation.”
“What we’re going through right now is further exposing the swamp creatures,” Good said.
But with Jordan’s candidacy shot down, the Virginia congressman conceded that they are back to the drawing board. And he hinted that his hard-right faction of the party could draw out the process even longer.
“We’re not going to just rubber-stamp someone else from the swamp,” Good told the crowd. “Not any one of us can pick a speaker, but any five of us can block the speaker, and we’re not going to give up in the battle of trying to find the best conservative speaker that can get to 217 that represents what is becoming increasingly a conservative center of the conference.”
While some of their colleagues have questioned what this small band of hardline conservatives are trying to accomplish in the unprecedented move, Good and Gaetz said they are trying to deal a blow to what Good called the “uni-party cartel”.
Congress has been failing Americans for 60 years, Good said.
“We’re not wedded to any specific reform,” Gaetz said to the crowd. “Our focus is solely on making sure that it’s your interests that dominate over the interests of those corrupt special interests.”
Good later added that McCarthy “caved” to Democrats in his unwillingness to not shut down the government.
“We knew the certainty of what that that kind of leadership means for the country. And there’s no reason to have Republican majorities to do that to the American people. We can do that with Democrats, and that’s why we did what we did,” he said.
But the pair was hoping to have a new speaker well before now, Good acknowledged. Gaetz told The Daily Progress he was “optimistic” that they would have a new speaker next week.
If it ends up being longer, the Good and Gaetz supporters in Mineral Saturday said they won’t mind. Three of the people who attended the fundraiser told The Daily Progress they appreciate what the congressmen are doing.
“It’s going to take some time, and I think they’re both doing the right thing,” George Debski said. He and his wife drove an hour to attend the fundraiser.
“I hope at the end of all this we’re going to live to see some of these things that they want. Specifically, I mean, we’ve got to do something about the border. This is insane,” Debski said.
Doc Garnett thanked Good for his “moral courage” and said he’s not at all concerned about the speakership.
“I don’t think it’s as big a deal as the media makes it out to be,” Garnett told The Daily Progress. “I think the less the federal government gets done the better off we all are.”
As Good left the venue, another attendee told him to “keep up the good fight.”
Fighting is exactly what Good and Gaetz said they intend to do.
“We are in this fight to win. And sometimes that means you don’t put a timeline on it,” Gaetz said to the crowd. “If we get this right, we have a generational opportunity to put the people’s needs first.”
Good and Gaetz left Mineral Saturday morning for two other fundraisers in Virginia, one in Rice and the other in Lynchburg, as part of the pair’s “Hope for America” tour.