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New York: The US is a deeply divided nation but if there’s one thing most Americans tend to agree on, it’s this: Congress is a clown show.
That much was reinforced when top Republican Kevin McCarthy became the first US House Speaker in history to be ousted from the job, plunging a nation into uncharted territory, exposing a party in disarray and highlighting the perils of extremism in the wake of former president Donald Trump.
Ex-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and ex-president Donald Trump.Credit: Marija Ercegovac
With a presidential election on the horizon next year, chaos is officially on the ballot.
The events were astonishing but at the same time predictable.
Astonishing in the sense that McCarthy had the support from the majority of his Republicans – 206 to be exact – yet his removal came down to eight mostly far-right detractors who sided with Democrats to oust him.
What’s more, the tipping point was his 11th-hour decision to work with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown that would have left millions of Americans without pay and key services.
That and McCarthy joining President Joe Biden earlier this year to raise the debt ceiling was apparently too much for Florida firebrand Matt Gaetz, who decided to pull the trigger on Wednesday (AEDT).
And when the key moment arrived, not even the Democrats came to McCarthy’s rescue.
“Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair,” Democrat leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote in a letter to members ahead of the vote.
But this was also a predictable mess of McCarthy’s own making.
The seeds of his fate were sown in January, when he was subjected to a painful round of 15 votes before finally clinching the Speaker’s gavel.
To secure the job he so desperately wanted, he offered his far-right detractors a wide range of concessions – including agreeing to a contentious new “motion to vacate” rule that diluted his own power.
Not surprisingly, they have been dangling that threat ever since.
Nine months after choosing its Speaker, the House of Representatives is paralysed, unable to get on with general business – such as implementing the AUKUS security pact – until someone else is appointed to the chair.
Americans have also been plunged into uncertainty at a time when Congress has about 40 days to avert another potential government shutdown in mid-November.
And the Republicans find themselves with no unified agenda and no clear leadership, which raises the obvious question: if you can’t govern yourself, how can voters trust you to govern the country?
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