What started as a vote for House speaker on Tuesday has quickly turned into a public flogging, as Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the widely presumed speaker-in-waiting, failed again Wednesday to secure the votes necessary to be named to the post.
McCarthy claimed the consecutive votes would make his right-wing detractors grow tired of opposing him.
And he was very wrong.
On Tuesday, McCarthy received 203 votes in the first round, 203 votes in the second and 202 votes in the third. On Wednesday, he earned only 201 votes in both the fourth and fifth rounds. All well short of the 218 he needs.
For McCarthy, this voting process has been a fitting summation of his political career: hubristic, entitled and embarrassing beyond measure.
McCarthy, once one of the self-proclaimed “Young Guns” in the GOP (a term for up-and-coming Republicans), has always portrayed himself as an heir-apparent to GOP leadership. That arrogance continued into Tuesday morning, when McCarthy reportedly told fellow Republicans in a closed-door meeting that he had “earned this job.” And he teed off on fellow Republicans in an interview Tuesday before the vote that afternoon.
For clarity: All of this followed previous reports of McCarthy’s website referring to him in November, presumptuously, as “speaker-elect.” And it followed the optics of McCarthy’s belongings being moved into the speaker’s office Tuesday.
Treating his victory as a foregone conclusion doesn’t appear likely to have helped McCarthy win over any votes. Still, he ended Tuesday night on an oddly hopeful note, claiming that he and GOP legislators would hash everything out in a closed-door meeting. To me, it felt like that scene in “Goodfellas” when Joe Pesci’s character is invited over to a mobster’s house thinking he’s about to become a made man. But the mob really invited him over to assassinate him.
Wednesday’s vote helped drive the metaphor home.
McCarthy won’t be “sleeping with the fishes” over this. But his political career is already dead. He has agreed to several conditions that weaken the speakership for anyone who holds the position in the next congressional term. Whoever that is will serve many masters, and seemingly be House speaker in name only.