Always a Voice for Students

Imua ʻIolani

Always a Voice for Students

Imua ʻIolani

Always a Voice for Students

Imua ʻIolani

From Gavel to Gridlock: Understanding the House Speaker Controversy

Illustration by Madeline Lucy N.

America, the votes are in. Yays are 216, nays are 210. On October 3, 2023, lawmakers adopted the resolution without objection, and the motion to reconsider was laid on the table. The United States House Speaker position was declared vacant. With the Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, ousted from office, the Republican Party ultimately selected Mike Johnson to fill this empty role.

Marking the first time in U.S. history that a leader of the lower chamber has been pushed out of office, McCarthy’s ousting as speaker, the result of votes from the right wing of the Republican Party (GOP), brought the House to a halt. The effort to oust McCarthy as speaker was led by congressman, Matt Gaetz, of Florida.  Lacking a speaker, the House cannot carry out its responsibilities for overseeing the federal government, such as calling witnesses before committees or procuring funding needed to help constituents. At this time, a government shutdown will occur if Congress does not extend government funding. The House needed to find a replacement because the seat’s vacancy puts the United States in a state of vulnerability. When asked their thoughts during the situation, Academic Awardee for AP Comparative Government Noelani Hiltner ’24 says, “At this time, they’re not passing any legislation. Going forward, I wouldn’t be surprised if this continues to disrupt our government’s processes. Right now, we can’t pass any new bills, and that looks substandard for the U.S., other countries, and voters within the U.S. We tend to lose faith in the system when we can see that it is not working. It just highlights the differences between the parties and how unwilling they are to cooperate.”

Ultimately, McCarthy was ousted for violating the agreement he made with his fellow party members to secure the speakership. McCarthy signed agreements that reflected “conservative representation,” allowing any one member or representative to unseat him, and most importantly, made promises on how he would approach government spending issues. The major turning point of his speakership was the passage of a stop-gap funding measure, the Continuing Resolution, which sought to continue war provisions for Ukraine. McCarthy was accused of overstepping his signed agreement that did not allow for communication with the Democratic Party, which evidently, he did. By revoking his agreement with the Continuing Resolution, McCarthy was now in danger of being unseated. Given, that months before his ousting, McCarthy spent his time fighting with the right wing of the GOP, his fate was solidified.

Regarding his standpoint during the situation, AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher Mr. John Bickel says, “Republicans did not want McCarthy working with Democrats on the budget, but he did. Is the issue working with the opposition? If that’s the red line for that small, radical minority, it’s problematic. It’s easier if the small group is concerned about money or a particular program because you can compromise on that. But by saying that you’re not going to talk to the Democrats, you’re prohibiting compromise, precluding compromise.” In the end, Republicans did cut a deal with the Democrats, but this reveals the attitude of the right wing of Republicans toward bipartisan compromise.

The reputation of our government is decreasing due to the polarization of parties. The lack of bipartisanship affects the strength, productivity, and fairness of the federal government. In the House, far-right members refuse to accept a more traditional speaker, and moderate conservatives do not want a hard-liner. Moreover, the polarization of social media emphasizes the lack of communication between parties making it harder for parties to collaborate. Infighting within the Republican party led to disorganization and controversy surrounding Republican leadership led to a “civil war” within it: with some members supporting McCarthy and others supporting the new House Speaker, Mike Johnson. 

In respect to his thoughts on bipartisanship and McCarthy’s involvement with the Democratic party, AP U.S Government and Politics student, Siddharth Srinivasan ’25 says bipartisanship is necessary for decisions to be made:  “if McCarthy didn’t interact with the Democratic Party, then the government would have shut down…. If there is a divided government, you face gridlock. When there is gridlock, no legislation is passed. McCarthy got himself into a predicament by signing conditions to obtain the title of Speaker of the House for himself. His choice was not party betrayal because there are times when a Democratic Speaker is going to need to work with Republicans as well. It was only eight Republicans, out of more than 260 members, who believed he was in the wrong for working with the Democrats. It was only a small majority of far-right members who ostracized the officials for working with the opposite party.”

Issues regarding the federal government have a direct impact on citizens of the U.S. For those who don’t see a reason to get involved in politics, Noelani Hiltner ’24 believes, “You must use your political voice. Students should care; they should do their research because even if it feels like it doesn’t directly affect you, it does directly affect your friend, your family, or someone you know. That is why you must stand up and use your voice in support of those people.”

In agreement with the lack of productivity in the federal government, AP U.S Government and Politics Student, Jordan Tapper ’25 says, “I believe that our student body should know that with politicians from both parties refusing to work together, the US political system is in a dangerous state, as respect for the federal courts is at the absolute lowest. The divide between social media and political infighting has greatly damaged the American political system and everything that the founding fathers worked for when they established the Constitution. This is not what they had envisioned at all.”

Mr. John Bickel affirms, “Well, I think when they see a government shutdown, they should know that, first of all, non-essential workers are not going to continue to work for the government, as even some essential workers who are working will not be paid. This may affect their families.”

In relation to the government’s current state, many uncertainties lie ahead with new leaders and rising tensions between political parties, which, in return, will result in declining confidence in our governing systems. The community must acknowledge the importance of the federal government and its direct effect on their family, and they must strive to elect leaders who will, in a time of chaos, utilize values and proceed with the necessary need for bipartisanship.

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About the Contributor
Madeline Lucy N.
Hello, my name is Madeline Lucy. I entered ‘Iolani School as a freshman and I’m now a sophomore. I joined Imua Newsroom because I wanted to embrace my passion for reading and writing. I am on the ‘Iolani kayaking and paddling team while also paddling for a club as well. Additionally, I dance for Halau o ‘Iolani, ‘Iolani’s hula program. My hobbies are learning about the environment, engaging in social wellness initiatives and immersing myself into different cultures. As a new staffer at Imua, I’m so grateful to be immersed in a community full of 5 things that I love. FUN FACT: I love to play with my dog who is named after my favorite boy band!

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