Skip to content
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) arrives to the U.S. Capitol Building

Senate Republicans whack House GOP dysfunction

Republican senators were aghast on Tuesday after a small minority of the House GOP Conference booted Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership.

In the upper chamber, Republicans immediately saw practical implications for the must-pass agenda — from appropriations to the Defense authorization bill — and for their party’s own standing ahead of the 2024 elections.

“It raises questions about whether or not some Republicans can govern,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said bluntly. “That’s going to be an issue.”

Senate Republicans described McCarthy as essentially a martyr for the cause of averting a government shutdown over the weekend by putting forth a stopgap funding bill that a big chunk of the House GOP conference opposed.

Tillis said McCarthy “showed some skill” in pushing through the 45-day stopgap measure on Saturday. But that was what put McCarthy’s detractors over the edge and resulted in a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair on Tuesday.

Here’s how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell put it in a statement released late Tuesday night:

Other Republicans were more candid.

“Clearly, it’s a great day for the House Democrats,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said. “They’re happy.”

“There is a faction in both parties, but certainly most visibly in mine, that wants to perform and be seen, as opposed to actually legislate and govern,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) added. “And that is what’s led to the outcome you saw today.”

What haunted McCarthy throughout his brief tenure was his willingness to rely on Democratic votes for must-pass legislation — such as the debt-limit compromise — when he couldn’t pass something with only GOP votes.

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has met frequently with McCarthy, said it was a “sad day when you have 5% of a caucus [who say] it’s a political crime to talk to the other side.”

“Thank God we still have the filibuster,” Manchin said of the Senate. “If not, we’d be the same [as the House]. That’s the most important thing.”

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) had some choice words for his fellow Montanan, GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale, who was among the eight Republicans voting to oust McCarthy. Daines, of course, is the NRSC chair and Rosendale is flirting with a Senate run — something Daines and others are urging against.

“I didn’t realize that Matt Rosendale and Nancy Pelosi attend the same prayer group,” Daines said.

Funding worries: A more immediate concern for lawmakers is the fact that the government shuts down in 44 days and neither chamber is making progress on FY2024 appropriations bills, raising the possibility that another continuing resolution will be needed in mid-November.

This is exactly the outcome that conservatives who ousted McCarthy want to avoid.

“It just adds additional uncertainty to the process,” said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), a former House member. “We already have a pretty busy legislative calendar between now and year’s end, and that detracts from our productivity.”

Just two GOP senators we spoke with seemed to validate the arguments of the eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy from the speakership.

“There was a real breakdown in trust with those that voted against him,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said, knocking McCarthy for a “breach of faith” over the legislation that raised the debt limit.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he was “very sympathetic” to those House Republicans’ views on the appropriations process, but declined to weigh in on whether it was wise to oust McCarthy.

— Andrew Desiderio

The AI Impact

What are the potential pitfalls of AI in healthcare, an industry that deals with human lives and sensitive personal data? Learn more in the second installment of the AI Impact.

Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.