Updated Nov 19, 2021 - Politics & Policy

McCarthy's 8-hour speech forces Democrats to delay social spending vote

Screen showing Kevin McCarthy speech with a clock above
View of McCarthy's speech in the Capitol. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

House Democrats scrapped their plans to hold a vote on a mammoth social spending bill Thursday night after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) broke their patience with a record-long floor speech.

The big picture: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced shortly after midnight Friday that Democrats would go into recess and return at 8 a.m. to pass the bill, which is opposed by all Republicans. McCarthy finished speaking at 5:10 a.m. ET — marking the longest continued speech since at least 1909.

  • His speech, which began at 8:38 p.m., exceeded the previous 21st century record set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in 2018 of eight hours and seven minutes.
  • “This one minute feels almost like eight hours now. I want to thank my colleagues for standing with me,” he said of his fellow Republican members who stayed throughout, many nodding off during his speech.

The other side: A senior Democratic aide told Axios, "McCarthy is welcome to continue his raving as late into the night as he wants. The House will return and vote first thing Friday morning."

  • The aide added, "We thank the minority leader for helping us maximize the coverage of our efforts."

What they're saying: "Kevin is … trying to show his conference that he's a tough guy," said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), who was present for much of the speech.

  • Jackson Lee, who is a chief deputy whip for the House Democrats, said McCarthy's speech has done little to shake support for the bill: "I have not heard anyone changing ... their commitment to vote 'yes' on this legislation."
  • Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), exiting the Capitol well after midnight, said he had no insight into McCarthy's motives. "I haven’t been able to ask him — I don’t know. Postpone [the bill], I guess."
  • "What are we doing? Childcare. What are they doing? Tantrums," said Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-N.M.).

The big picture: Frequent disruptions by Democrats and angry replies from McCarthy throughout the speech showcased the bitter divide between the two parties in Congress.

  • After relentless heckling from Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), McCarthy suggested the Ohio congressman might lose his committee assignments, saying: "I know Speaker Pelosi likes to remove people from committee when they don't meet a higher standard."
  • The comment was a reference to the House voting a day earlier to strip Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) of his assignments for posting a video depicting violence against President Joe Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
  • Ocasio-Cortez responded to McCarthy's remark by shouting back that Gosar was "inciting violence," before leaving the chamber.
  • Ryan said at another point in the speech to McCarthy: "Keep going, no one's listening anyway."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with more details on McCarthy's speech length and to include details of Pelosi's 2018 speech.

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