GOP leader’s marathon speech forces House Democrats to push vote

House Democrats have pushed the vote on President Biden’s social spending and climate package to 8 a.m. Friday morning after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) held the floor for more than 8 1/2 hours to delay its passage.

McCarthy commandeered the chamber floor Thursday night in a marathon floor speech that dashed the Democrats’ plans to vote on their top legislative priority and leave town for the long Thanksgiving recess before Friday. 

The announcement of the delay, which came from the office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), arrived after midnight on Friday, almost four hours into McCarthy’s speech — a rambling monologue that touched on topics as diverse as his getting a COVID-19 booster shot, inflation, immigration, the Gettysburg Address, Elon Musk, President Washington crossing the Delaware and U.S. policy toward China.

If those topics appeared disconnected on the surface, they always returned to a common accusatory theme: Democrats, with their plan to pass Biden’s multitrillion-dollar social benefits legislation, were ensuring the demise of America’s centuries-old experiment in capitalist democracy, McCarthy charged, and only a shift of power back to the Republicans could save the republic. 

In the meantime, he urged moderate Democrats to oppose the social benefits package, whenever it hits the floor.  

Despite the new plan to vote Friday morning instead, McCarthy pledged to keep speaking.

“Democrats are headed to bed for the night, but I’m not talking to them. I’m talking directly to the American people,” read a message from McCarthy’s Twitter account posted shortly before 1 a.m.

At 4:46 a.m. Friday, McCarthy set a new record for the longest House floor speech after beginning his remarks at 8:38 p.m. Thursday night.

That surpassed the previous record established by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2018, when, as minority leader, she spoke for eight hours and seven minutes — in four-inch stilettos to boot — calling on GOP leaders to commit to a vote on immigration reform.

McCarthy eventually concluded at 5:10 a.m. after eight hours and 32 minutes of continuous speaking. 

The House subsequently went into recess until 8 a.m., when it will reconvene. Pelosi is expected to deliver final remarks on the legislation before the House proceeds to a vote on the bill.

While most House members must abide by time limits during floor debate, the chamber’s rules allow the Speaker, majority leader and minority leader to speak for unlimited amounts of time.

For roughly the first two hours of McCarthy’s speech, Democrats repeatedly heckled and interrupted him. But as time wore on, few hung around in the chamber to listen to his remarks and mocked him on Twitter instead.

“We are hearing rumors that the front row of GOP hostages behind Kevin McCarthy are asking whether they can just be censured instead,” wrote Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), referring to the Wednesday vote to censure Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and remove him from committees for posting an edited anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

The taunts did nothing to dissuade the Republican leader. At two hours and 54 minutes into the oration, McCarthy offered the exhausted Democrats a warning: “I’m just gearing up,” he said. 

Other Republicans encouraged McCarthy to “hold the line” and continue speaking to delay passage of Democrats’ domestic agenda.

Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), the brother of former Vice President Mike Pence, was among the lawmakers offering praise. 

“This is a historical moment for Kevin, for sure,” Pence said. “He’s been at it a long time.”

At the same time, some Republicans’ endurance appeared to be waning as the night went on.

Around midnight, Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas), who was seated directly behind McCarthy, appeared to briefly nod off and checked his watch. 

Democrats had hoped to clinch passage of the social spending package on Thursday after infighting over strategy and the scope of the bill had delayed it for months. 

House Democratic leaders initially tried to hold a vote on passage of the legislation two weeks ago, but a handful of centrists refused to back it unless without a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of its fiscal impact in hand.

Democrats subsequently moved to hold a vote as soon as the CBO published its full cost estimate late Thursday afternoon. 

Just one House Democrat — Rep. Jared Golden (Maine), who represents a competitive district and also opposed his party’s COVID-19 relief measure earlier this year — has announced opposition to the social spending package.

Updated at 5:29 a.m.

Tags Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Build Back Better Act Elon Musk Greg Pence Jamie Raskin Jared Golden Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Mike Pence Nancy Pelosi Paul Gosar Randy Weber social spending package Steny Hoyer

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