The U.S. Government Faces Shutdown as Political Turmoil Escalates

By CJ Daley, AGE 11

Kevin McCarthy, official portrait, former speaker.

Kevin McCarthy was ousted as speaker of the House of Representatives on Oct. 3, 2023. The new speaker, Mike Johnson, installed after 22 days of a leaderless House, is considerably more conservative than McCarthy and supported Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. 

The role of House speaker is significant within the framework of the U.S. Constitution because the speaker leads the majority political party in the House. According to the National Constitution Center, the speaker also “controls the order of all institutional business on the House floor.” Also, the speaker is second in line to the presidency, after the vice president. 

Rep. Matt Gaetz and a small group of Republicans worked in coordination to get McCarthy stripped of his role as speaker. According to television news source KCRA 3, McCarthy’s speakership was opposed by some far-right Republicans because he “struck a deal with Democrats in May to raise the debt ceiling to avoid economic calamity.” Gaetz also accused McCarthy of making “secret side deals” with President Biden to secure more aid for Ukraine in its war with Russia. Gaetz and the House Freedom Caucus believed that using legislative gridlock and creating chaos would allow them to have more power to bring about their goals.

The country now faces a regularly occurring risk of government shutdowns, used by minority GOP groups within the House to push an extremist agenda. Speaker Johnson seems to be taking the House down a far-right road. His integral role in trying to overturn the 2020 election raises concerns about the next election. The Christian nationalist flag that he has hung prominently outside of his office has led to questions about his intentions for the future of the country. Charles M. Blow of the New York Times warns, “All that is true, but unlike Trump’s, Johnson’s efforts to undermine American democracy are served like a comforting bowl of grits and a glass of sweet tea. He is not abrasive. He is likable.”

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