In hours-long clamor, “furious” GOP McCarthy blocks Biden’s bill

In hours-long clamor, “furious” GOP McCarthy blocks Biden’s bill

Washington Part political performance, part disruptive tactic Republican leader Kevin McCarthy unleashed a long, pessimistic, powerful rhetoric, dominate the House floor and pre-empt the passage of President Joe Biden’s major domestic policy bill.

Scorned one minute, mocked the next, McCarthy ran for hours as Thursday night became Friday morning. He has fired up grievances that reach far beyond Biden’s legislative package, turning into a monologue of complaints about what is wrong with the country and the Democrats who control Washington.

Far from the “happy conservative” he claimed to be, the California Republican debuted in a new role: the enraged heir to Donald Trump’s legacy, starting where the former president left off, ruthlessly attacking his political opponents and their ideas with a ferocity rare even to the divided halls of Congress. The speech was a fortune for fact-checkers.

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“If you look angry, I am,” he said as he began the speech.

“I just got ready, go and just sit,” he said several hours later. At another point, he said, “I know you don’t like me, but that’s okay.”

The lengthy speech was the politically painful culmination of an extremely tense week in one of the most divisive and dangerous years in Congress.

Monday kicked off with celebration, a rare bipartisan feat, as Biden signed the related trillion-dollar infrastructure bill into law. By midweek, the House criticized a member of the House of Representatives, Representative Paul Gosar, R-Arizona, for posting a video clip depicting violence against fellow elected officials. By the start of Friday, McCarthy was deep in an obstacle knot ahead of him, shutting down his business as usual.

Feverish rhetoric is nothing new in politics, but the post-Trump era has set the stage for a troubling new normal, a climate that has allowed fiery rhetoric to move quickly into more dangerous terrain — like the former president’s own cry that sparked January. 6. Mutiny in the Capitol in an attempt to overturn Biden’s election.

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McCarthy’s speech began almost like any other during the recent debate on the Biden bill. Democrats have been struggling to finish work on a package of social services and climate change programs, ignoring their own differences to achieve the president’s internal priorities.

Speakers’ speeches usually lasted one minute during the discussion, but McCarthy used the privilege granted to party leaders to speak for as long as they wished. As minutes stretched into hours, it was clear that McCarthy’s speech had become something else—a moment.

He tore up Biden’s package as reckless spending, scolded Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s administration in the House of Representatives and veered from one topic to another — inflation, immigration, the threat of a rising China, his California childhood, the Lincoln presidency, the Jim Crow era, even the effect of “Red Dawn” on His policy – all while stabbed in the air, frowning across the corridor, his voice occasionally interrupting.

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At one point he called on some Democrats to join Republicans in opposing the Biden package, in an effort to deprive the party of the votes it would need to pass. It appears that there were no takers.

Dozens of Republicans urged him, some sitting directly behind him. Democrats on the other side booed, some tweeting laughing responses.

“I loved it,” said Representative Greg Pence, Republican of India, brother of former Vice President Mike Pence. “This is a historic moment for Kevin, for sure.”

Twitter Representative Adam Schiff, D-Calif., Chairman of the Intelligence Committee: “If I got the world’s worst orator/Given him the worst speech in the world/And made him read it for the longest time in the world/That would be like listening to Kevin McCarthy tonight. Except probably better” .

It is no secret that Democrats face potentially difficult midterm elections next fall that will put their slim majority at risk. If the Republicans take over, McCarthy will be in line to become a speaker, a job he’s tried and failed to achieve before, only to bow out when it was clear he wouldn’t have the support of his Republican peers.

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McCarthy’s all-night performance can be seen as a test of sorts, an appeal to fellow Republicans who denied him the job the previous time.

It can also be seen as a performance for another audience – for one audience. Earlier on Thursday, McCarthy said he received a call from Trump, who was golfing but called him. McCarthy didn’t say what was said, they just talked.

Their relationship was strained at times, although McCarthy was among the first in Congress to support Trump’s 2016 campaign and was given special status by the former president as “My Kevin”.

House Republicans remained close to the former president, imitating his style. The House Republican Campaign Committee recently held a fundraiser with Trump and the party decided that his support would be vital if they hoped to regain control of Congress.

Unlike the Senate, which is known for its long, disruptive-style speeches, such addresses in the House of Representatives are rare. Pelosi has a modern-day record, having entered her eight-hour speech in 2018 in support of immigration law changes, reading heartfelt messages from immigrants, some of whom are asking for protection from deportation.

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Just after midnight last Friday, when lawmakers came forward, Pence said McCarthy might be on his way to breaking Pelosi’s record for giving speeches.

The House was scheduled to return after dawn Friday and try again to pass the Biden package, sending it to the Senate.

Democratic Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who is part of the vote-counting whip team, said McCarthy’s speech did not appear to have altered any support for Biden’s bill on her part of the aisle.

“I think Kevin is also trying to show his convention that he’s a tough guy,” Jackson told Lee. “And he has the right to. And when I was there, I showed him the respect that anyone on earth deserves. But frankly, there are desperate people in my area who need every aspect of this law.”

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Associated Press writers Farnoch Amiri, Marie Claire Galonic and Alan Fram contributed to this report.

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