US House Speaker Fight Comes to Texas

National and state politics converge as Republican Civil War rages

Toplines & Key Facts

  • Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted from his role, and Texas members have sway in the decision for who’s next.
  • Meanwhile, the Texas Legislature reopens at 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 9 in a special session, with expectations to remove its own House Speaker, Dade Phelan.
  • This special session will cost taxpayers millions while Republicans potentially scramble for a new House Speaker.
  • Gov. Abbott, who sets the agenda in a special session, has stated this term will be centered on the hot-button issue of school choice.

Kevin McCarthy is out.

For the first time in US history, a US Speaker of the House has been ousted. Republican Kevin McCarthy must now be replaced by the (slim) majority Republican caucus. McCarthy’s absence is significant because without a Speaker in place, there’s no one to maintain order in the House, and legislative proceedings are halted until a permanent choice is made post-interim.

That being said, there wasn’t much order present in the first place. From the beginning of McCarthy’s tenure which prompted 15 votes to instate his Speakership, to the possibility of government shutdown on the horizon, his reign appears doomed. However, someone is needed in the Speaker’s seat permanently to keep the government funded. Now, after all 208 members of the Democratic bloc and 8 Republicans in the House have voted him out 216-210, we are looking at new candidates and continued chaos in the House.

Texas Role in Speaker Fight

Importantly, Texas members have a good chunk of power in choosing the replacement and reinstating some sort of structure. They hold 25 Republican members of the total and therefore, weight in the decision. That is especially notable because every single one of them “stuck behind McCarthy until the end.” So far, three Republicans have stepped forward for the role: Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) (endorsed by Trump), and Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-OK) 

Still, in the midst of this feud between factions, some are attempting to peacekeep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) is leading the charge, and failing to unite the split Republican party on a single candidate as 218 members are needed to make the choice.

Another decision that is likely to fail- Trump for Speaker. Combining the facts that he is focused on his presidential bid, ineligible under GOP House rules, and adding in his indictment charges, he doesn’t seem to be the candidate. However, as Progress Texas Podcast Producer and Director Chris Mosser said: “Any progressive paying attention knows better than to expect something as minor as rules to prevent MAGA shenanigans when it comes to Donald Trump.” Nonetheless, Rep. Troy Nehls (R-TX) is trying anyway. He stated that he will nominate the former President at the next party meeting, to Trump’s annoyance

More Speaker Fights in Texas

Meanwhile, back home in Texas, the third special session starts on Monday, and you can expect a direct parallel to national politics. It is predicted that our own Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan, will face motions to vacate because of similar infighting between the far right and “moderate” Republicans. This move is preceded by the party’s “call for his resignation last month.” 

Why this Matters: The Costs of a Special Session

Both the US and Texas House chambers are in disarray as the Texas Legislature opens back up. It seems almost normal. However, it is critical to remember they’re being paid to keep up these antics. When this session starts, Republican members will be wasting taxpayer money, splitting attention between scrambling to unite their party and simultaneously trying to destroy our public education system. The specific amount of money you’re losing while they play House? $2-3 million for a 30-day special session. 

Additionally, it is solely Gov. Abbott who decides the agenda for this third session, and his previous two proposed sessions have failed. Now, his focus is “voucher” scam legislation. Therefore, Gov. Abbott is deciding to throw time and money away for a third round, but in this case, specifically to defund the public education system and move towards privatization.

This move begs the question of what else could be addressed in this session that might have produced positive change for our state. Imagine if Gov. Abbott’s whims were in favor of public education funding and access, or expanding healthcare. Moreover, the “Texas Department of State Health Services is now banned by the Texas Legislature from spending public money to promote the vaccine,” so there’s the impact of COVID-19, as well as the continuing disintegration of reproductive and gender-affirming healthcare access. Issues this state could be taking on are plentiful, but (for now) we’re stuck with this guy and his cronies who keep putting profit over people. 

What you can do

  1. Be informed. On Oct. 9, the new special session begins. You can watch proceedings for the Senate at this live video broadcast or the House of Representatives at this live video broadcast
  2. Don’t take votes for granted. Tell your elected officials to oppose ANY public funds for private schools. They’re being lobbied by Gov. Abbott’s anti-public school friends with lots of money to spend. If you don’t know your state representative or senator (get to know them!) find them here.
  3. Make a plan to vote. Oct. 10 is the last day to register to vote, which matters because it’s time to flex your progressive civic muscles and help shape the direction of our state! Your Progressive Voter Guide is here. Election Day is November 7.