House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy scuttled Democrats’ plans to quickly pass their landmark climate and social spending bill Thursday evening with a speech that rambled for more than 8 hours. Democrats are now planning to hold a vote on the bill Friday morning.
McCarthy started speaking at 8:38 p.m. with bromides against Democrats for their stewardship of the economy and their plans to create new subsidies for child care, green energy and health insurance. He didn’t stop until after 5 a.m. on Friday.
“Never in American history has so much been spent at one time,” the California Republican said at the top of his speech. “This is the single most reckless and irresponsible spending bill in our nation’s history.”
McCarthy’s math is wrong. In fact, the bill would cost a small fraction of what the GOP tax cuts cost under Donald Trump, at least according to the official estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
He also at times talked about border security, crime, inflation, China, Elon Musk, Hitler, Afghanistan, the Soviet Union, Thanksgiving and what America would have been like if Abraham Lincoln had not been assassinated.
“Tonight, Kevin McCarthy previewed Republicans’ very best attacks against the deficit reducing, inflation crushing Build Back Better Act,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said in a mocking press release. “As he hopefully approaches the end, we’re all left wondering: does Kevin McCarthy know where he is right now?”
The speech seemed designed to burnish McCarthy’s credibility with members of his own party, whom he hopes will elect him speaker if Republicans retake the House in the 2022 midterm elections. McCarthy frequently paused during his speech to stare down Democrats having their own conversations inside the House chamber.
“Gas prices! Thanksgiving!”
House tradition gives party leaders the authority to speak for as long as they want. McCarthy broke Pelosi’s previous eight-hour record, set in 2018 as she tried to force action on an immigration bill. Former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) used the so-called “magic minute” to deliver his infamous “hell no you can’t” speech against climate legislation in 2009.
McCarthy delved into many details of the Build Back Better Act, saying, for example, that the bill’s continuation of the expanded child tax credit, which pays parents as much as $300 per child per month, would worsen a labor shortage by “placing small-business owners into direct competition with the federal government’s unlimited printing press.”
He also went on some odd tangents, as one does when speaking extemporaneously for hours.
“Just think for a moment that in America, children can’t play outside on their own property for fear of their safety from cartels and traffickers,” McCarthy said during an extended riff on crime and immigration in the 10 p.m. hour.
“I’m not talking about the cities where you defunded the police,” he said. “I’m talking about remote cattle ranches. A place I think every American dreams they could retire one day, on a ranch. Build back ― going all the way back to the westerns, I guess. People have to fend for themselves.”
Sometimes he spoke softly. Sometimes loudly.
“You are spending so much money!” he yelled shortly after 11 p.m. “We spent less defeating Hitler, Mussolini and Japan than you’re spending tonight! We spent less, but it cost us lives. And you’re celebrating it! You’re celebrating it when inflation is at 31%! Gas prices! Thanksgiving!”
Democrats were not pleased yet made clear that they were ready and eager to vote after McCarthy finished. And many of them derided the GOP leader on Twitter ― as well as tout provisions of Build Back Better ― since that was about all they could do as they waited for him to finish.
Democrats moved forward Thursday after the CBO issued its official score, which had been a key demand of some of the more moderate members of the party. The CBO estimates that the bill would add more than $100 billion to the deficit over a decade. Democrats had insisted that the bill’s cost would be totally offset.
The Senate needs to take up the legislation before it heads to President Joe Biden for his signature.