Wrenches can get retrieved, after all. Kevin McCarthy’s intervention in the House vote on the Build Back Better bill was as futile as the bill itself, as neither of them have any chance of succeeding in their overall mission. McCarthy couldn’t stop House Democrats from voting on the quasi-reconciliation vehicle, and the House bill has zero chance of even getting considered in the Senate.
However, the House GOP leader picked the precise moment in which to exploit his “magic minute” privilege to make this upcoming vote as painful as possible. McCarthy ended up breaking Nancy Pelosi’s record for speaking time while forcing Democrats to postpone the BBB vote into the daylight:
Rep. Kevin McCarthy broke a record for the longest speech in the US House of Representatives, surpassing eight hours of continuous floor time early Friday morning.
The House minority leader began his rambling address at 8:38 p.m. ET on Thursday, hoping to obstruct Democrats’ attempts to advance a huge social-spending package championed by President Joe Biden.
McCarthy ended his speech at 5:11 a.m. Friday — eight hours and 33 minutes later.
He beat a record set by Nancy Pelosi, then minority leader, who spoke for eight hours and seven minutes in February 2018 on immigration policy.
McCarthy was allowed to speak so long by using the so-called magic-minute rule, which grants party leaders unlimited speaking time in certain situations. Unlike the Senate, the House has no filibuster.
After a few hours, Democrats threw in the towel … on a Thursday vote, anyway:
The House delayed a planned vote on Democrats’ roughly $2.2 trillion package of spending and tax breaks Thursday night when the Republican leader delivered an hourslong speech in opposition that ran into Friday.
Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California used his leader’s privilege to speak far beyond his allotted time, and Democrats decided to postpone their vote as his floor remarks ran past the four-hour mark.
Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said the House would return at 8 a.m., with a vote on passage scheduled.
Democrats had been confident they had the votes to secure passage earlier in the evening, even predicting an early wrap-up to the night session.
So what impact did McCarthy’s record rant have beyond delay? Time Magazine called it McCarthy’s “Very Trumpy 8-Hour Audition for House Speaker.” Apparently Philip Elliott was unaware of this privilege, or that Pelosi had made the exact kind of “audition” for speaker even closer to the 2018 midterms. Oh wait — Elliott does mention it briefly near the end:
Finally, McCarthy wrapped up just after 5 a.m. In a factoid that only Congress nerds will appreciate, McCarthy surpassed Pelosi’s legendary Magic Minute, which went eight hours in 2018, until this morning widely considered a record for a House speech.
Did Time or Elliott call it “Trumpy” at the time? It’s tough to say; Elliott links Esquire for the citation rather than Time for some reason. Apparently, while Elliott feels the need to cover this with a thousand or so words of scorn, Time must not have considered Pelosi’s previous-record rant newsworthy at all. Hmmmmm.
In fairness, there’s a reason for that — it’s not newsworthy in terms of substance. McCarthy’s rant can’t stop the vote from happening, unlike a filibuster in the Senate. All he could do is just delay it while unloading every complaint about the bill, about the Biden administration, and about Democrats in general into the record:
McCarthy’s speech primarily included the main GOP arguments against the legislation, blasting it as “reckless” spending that wouldn’t address the costs of inflation on Americans’ minds.
But McCarthy also spent much of his remarks veering into topics such as immigration at the southern border; his inability to afford a Tesla and friendship with the electric vehicle company’s owner, Elon Musk; the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan; baby carrots; the deli he opened in his youth; his experience getting a COVID-19 booster shot earlier Thursday; and the Wednesday vote on a resolution put forth by Democrats to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and remove him from House committees for posting an anime video on social media that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
“I know your side has no problem removing people from committees. I wonder if people keep talking they should be removed from the floor,” McCarthy said after Democrats interrupted him again.
The delay accomplished two objectives, and potentially eliminated one rhetorical line of attack. First, it gave opponents of the bill a few more hours to find pork-rind nuggets such as this in the text:
A park in San Francisco —the Presidio— is going to get $200 million under @SpeakerPelosi version of BBB set to pass the House today. San Francisco has less than 900,000 people. What’s in your senator’s wallop?
— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) November 19, 2021
The more these pork items come to the surface, the angrier voters might get. That’s where the second objective comes it: opponents can hope that the splashy delay and the extra few hours will prompt voters to call House Democrats’ offices to register their disapproval. Pelosi can only afford to lose three Democrats in this vote, and Rep. Jared Golden has already suggested he’ll vote no.
So what’s the potential setback? Had Democrats held the vote last night as planned, Republicans could have argued that they passed it “in the middle of the night” or “under cover of darkness.” That’s it; McCarthy passed up a tag line. It’s not much of a risk, but then again, the stakes were small in the first place.
The truth is that this bill will go nowhere regardless of when the vote takes place. It’s a piece of performance art at best, and it’s likely to be a millstone around the necks of moderate House incumbents in next year’s midterms. They will have to explain why they voted for a massive tax cut for the rich with the SALT cap expansion while breaking their promise to pay for the entire bill with tax hikes for the wealthy. In that sense, McCarthy might have wanted to expedite that vote rather than delay it, as it’s destined to be the most damaging non-sequitur produced by the House in a very long time.
Still, performance art begets performance art, and at least McCarthy wasn’t pretending to do something substantive. That’s more than Pelosi can say. Or even McCarthy can say after spending eight-hours-plus taking through the night. Here’s slightly less than half of his speech: