House battle over speaker – time for working-class intervention

The eleventh hour 209-126 compromise vote between House of Representative Democrats and Republicans on Sept. 30, orchestrated by former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, provided a temporary extension of federal spending. But it has opened a hornet’s nest of political wrangling which shows that the U.S. regime is in a historic crisis. 

After the stopgap resolution passed, McCarthy taunted the far-right Republican extremists who threatened to file a motion to oust him, saying, “Bring it.”

No sooner had the extension agreement been signed by President Joe Biden than Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) carried out his threat to introduce a “motion to vacate the speaker” — a vote on whether McCarthy should remain in his job.  Previously, the rule required a majority of one party for such a motion to come to the House floor for a full vote.

On Oct. 3, just days later, 208 Democrats backed eight hard-right Republican extremists in supporting McCarthy’s removal, as 210 Republicans tried but failed to keep the speaker in place. The very fact that McCarthy bargained with Democratic members of the House cost him his job.  

A key backer of the move to oust McCarthy was Gaetz, who was the main obstacle to McCarthy’s speakership in January, leading the group of far-right extremists who refused to vote for the longtime GOP minority leader for 14 rounds of roll calls. Gaetz withheld his support until McCarthy agreed to a series of extraordinary concessions to the ultraright, including the provision that a recall required only one person to introduce a “measure to vacate” to win round 15.

The New York Times disclosed the role of neo-fascist Steve Bannon, the former Trump adviser, in “stoking the chaos now gripping the Republican Party, capitalizing on the spectacle to build his own following and using his popular podcast to prop up and egg on the G.O.P. rebels.” (Oct. 4)

McCarthy’s ouster represents the first time in U.S. history that a speaker of the House was removed from office. It comes as approval ratings of Congress and the federal government remain near historic lows, with a majority expressing little or no confidence in the future of the U.S. political system.

Differences over military spending

The crisis in Congress appears to be largely over disagreements with military spending, specifically over the National Defense Authorization Act — the annual funding bill for military spending — and continuous spending to support the war in Ukraine. 

Since this summer, the far right has fought to include provisions in the NDAA that would cut U.S. aid to Ukraine and Defense Department spending on abortion access, trans health care and diversity programs for military personnel. After winning concessions from McCarthy, the far right allowed the  NDAA to pass on Sept. 28. Yet the bill, with the concessions, was considered “dead on arrival” in the Senate.  

A CNN poll on Aug. 4 revealed that 55% of the U.S. population opposes more aid to Ukraine, with opposition even higher among Republican voters — less out of opposition to war but more a reflection of loyalty to Trump, who as president rejected U.S. participation in international trade agreements and military alliances, including NATO. However, while Trump is critical of war in order to rally support for his agenda, he is imperialist through and through.

While Biden’s approach is to carry out imperialist wars through global alliances with other imperialists, Trump’s is the “America First” foreign policy of unilateral action, using the military might of the U.S. to strongarm other countries, including longstanding U.S. allies.

What happens next?

The infighting among representatives — Republicans but Democrats as well — puts a halt to all business in the House of Representatives. That it took 15 rounds of voting for McCarthy to win the position originally does not bode well for a speedy resolution of this crisis. Trump just announced his support for hard-right loyalist Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as House speaker, but others are in contention. Some Republican representatives even suggested selecting Trump for the  position, which is possible under obscure House rules.

As the far-right extremists in the Republican party attack each other while they posture for selection as the next speaker, the clock is ticking until the next government shutdown deadline on Nov. 17.  

That a minority of ultrarightists in Congress can force this crisis, largely over claimed disagreements with military spending, shows that the U.S. regime is in a historic crisis. Now more than ever, workers must intervene for their own interests. 

Everywhere workers are exercising their collective power. From the closely averted UPS strike, the SAG-AFTRA strike now in week 12, unionization victories by Starbucks and Amazon workers, strike support votes by teachers, transit workers, healthcare workers and others, to the historic United Auto Workers strike against three automakers at once, workers are demonstrating that they will no longer accept business as usual. They are rejecting the class system where all the wealth goes to the bosses and CEOs, and the workers — who created that wealth — must subsist on crumbs.

Right now workers are engaged in economic warfare against their bosses, but the next stage must be workers united in a political struggle to overthrow the capitalist state that maintains class oppression.

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