House Democrats were planning to swiftly pass their massive $1.75 trillion social welfare spending bill, but Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had other plans, unleashing a marathon blustering speech against President Biden’s Build Back Better legislation and broke the record for the chamber’s longest continuous speech in modern history.
McCarthy, who is not known to give highly colored and lengthy remarks, took over to debate the social spending bill. The procedural motion ahead of the final vote had been scheduled to last 20 minutes before the GOP leader kicked off his “magic minute” speech on the House floor at 8:38 p.m. Eastern.
Unlike the Senate, the House has no filibuster, but McCarthy took advantage of a rule that allows only the three top party leaders — the GOP leader, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) the right to speak as long as they want to count as only a single minute of the allotted debate time.
The GOP leader ended his remarks or “yield back” at 5:11 a.m., lasting 8 hours and 32 minutes, and also bested Pelosi’s 2018 record by 25 minutes. At that time, Pelosi, who was the Minority Leader, spoke for eight hours and seven minutes about DACA in her effort to threaten Republicans on her refusal to vote in favor of a bipartisan government funding bill since the package didn’t address the issue.
In 1909, Rep. Champ Clark, a Missouri Democrat, spoke for 5 hours and 15 minutes and held onto the record for the longest floor speech until Pelosi broke the record in 2018.
Democrats did not anticipate a lengthy floor speech from McCarthy — where the GOP leaders also tore into Biden’s social package as the “single most reckless and irresponsible” spending bill in our nation’s history,” while mentioning the several Republican amendments that Democrats refused to add to the bill or rejected and the massive ongoing crises Biden has caused in the ten months he has been in office.
“Never in American history will so many taxes be raised and so much borrowing to be needed to pay for all this reckless spending,” McCarthy said.
The GOP leader also chided Pelosi’s running of the House and swerved from topic to topic — inflation, immigration, the threat of a rising China, his childhood in California, the Lincoln presidency, the Jim Crow era, even the influence of the movie “Red Dawn” on his views of politics.
It marks the third time Democrats have sought to bring their marquee bill to the floor alone this month. But for the first time in a long time, Democrats were not in disarray and were finally ready to pass the president’s massive signature legislative agenda after months of infighting and setbacks. This time, the other side delayed their well-sought-out plan and upended their moment ahead of the Thanksgiving break.
By the time the clock hit midnight, Pelosi, who was presiding over the House floor, finally would give up waiting for McCarthy to stop talking in order to bring up the bill for a vote but decided to shelve the plans and dismiss her caucus for the night until 9 a.m. Friday.
“I know some of you are mad at me, think I spoke too long,” McCarthy said as some Democrats began to gruntle and gave sly remarks towards Republicans as they were heading out. “But I’ve had enough. America has had enough.”
Pelosi’s press office, in a statement called McCarthy floor speech a “temper tantrum,” circulating numerous news releases declaring “McCarthy Needs a Reality Check” and wondering “Is Kevin McCarthy OK?” as a way to counter the upcoming press coverage the GOP leader was expected to receive for his stunt.
While waiting impatiently as McCarthy continued with his “tirade of complaints” on the “reckless” majority party who controls Washington, dozens of Democrats taunted the GOP leader, either booing him or heckling him from the back of the chamber. McCarthy suggested that since Democrats are so comfortable removing members from committees — such as GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona — that those Democrats who continue to interrupt his speech should be removed from the House floor.
At one point, the GOP leader quoted moderate Democrat Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia recently telling the New York Times following the countless unexpected loss Democrats endured earlier this month on Election Day. In her interview, Spanberger said that “nobody elected Joe Biden to be FDR,” alluding to the Democrats’ narrow House majority and its razor-thin Senate majority.
At precisely that moment, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) interjected from afar and was heard shouting, “I did.”
Republicans praised McCarthy’s speech following his eight-and-a-half-hour remark. Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN), the brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, declared the GOP leader remarks as “a historical moment for Kevin, for sure.”
“Great job,” former President Trump said about McCarthy in a statement Friday.
Despite many Republicans praised McCarthy for halting Democrats plans to vote on the social welfare spending bill before the House took off for a week and a half for Thanksgiving break, some within the party are still angry at the GOP leader for letting 13 moderate “RINO” Republicans help Pelosi and Biden pass the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
On Friday, Steve Bannon’s radio show, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida called McCarthy’s long speech a “death rattle,” noting the outcome was predetermined based on his “poor leadership and poor strategy.”
“While we heard Leader McCarthy speak for a great duration of time, it was like a really long death rattle,” Gaetz told Steve Bannon Friday. “The outcome was already determined as a consequence of poor leadership and poor strategy.”
As he began to wrap up his speech around 5 a.m Friday morning, McCarthy joked, “this one minute feels almost like eight hours now.”
“This is the longest one minute I’ve ever given; it’s the longest one minute ever given in this body,” McCarthy continued. “There’s a reason why. This is a tipping point; this is a point of not coming back from. The American people have spoken, but unfortunately, the Democrats have not listened.”
“With that, Madam Speaker, I yield back,” McCarthy added.
Despite McCarthy’s efforts, Democrats forged ahead with voting on the social welfare spending package with only one from their own party — Rep. Jared Golden of Maine voting against it.
Once the legislation passes the House, it will face key hurdles in the Senate, where an uncertain fate awaits, with Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema expected to make drastic changes to the package.