Skip to content
A Historically Bad Day for Kevin McCarthy
Go to my account

A Historically Bad Day for Kevin McCarthy

Plus: How one New Jersey senator’s alleged crime could benefit Sweden’s NATO bid.

Happy Wednesday! The dessert wars are over, people. In the age-old battle between handheld treats, Krispy Kreme has apparently decided the winner—offering to sell its majority stake in Insomnia Cookies to focus solely on doughnuts.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The House of Representatives voted to vacate the chair yesterday afternoon, ousting Kevin McCarthy from the speakership—the first such removal in United States history. The final vote tally was 216-210, with eight Republicans crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats and remove the speaker. McCarthy announced last night he won’t run for speaker again, and Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina will serve as speaker pro tempore until a new speaker is chosen. Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, and former President Donald Trump have all been floated as possibilities.
  • The Labor Department reported Tuesday that job openings jumped from 8.9 million in July to 9.6 million in August, reversing three straight months of declining numbers in a sign the labor market still remains tight in the face of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to cool hiring. The quits rate—the percentage of workers who quit their job during the month—stayed at 2.3 percent, and the number of layoffs and discharges held steady at 1.7 million.
  • Ford and General Motors (GM) laid off an additional 500 people at factories in Ohio and Illinois in response to last week’s widening of the United Auto Workers’ strike. “Our production system is highly interconnected, which means the UAW’s targeted strike strategy has knock-on effects for facilities that are not directly targeted for a work stoppage,” Ford said in a statement. Ford has laid off a total of 930 workers so far, and GM has laid off nearly 2,000 workers.
  • Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to three felony gun charges at his arraignment in federal court on Tuesday, with his attorney signaling during the proceedings that he plans to file a motion to dismiss the charges as unconstitutional. The plea comes after Hunter’s previous deal with prosecutors fell apart earlier this summer, and he was indicted again last month. 
  • The Treasury Department on Tuesday announced sanctions against 12 entities and 13 individuals based in China (as well as two entities and one person based in Canada) who are allegedly part of a large illegal network of fentanyl manufacturers and distributors. The move freezes the assets of the designated targets and prevents Americans from doing business with them.
  • The Armenian parliament ratified the Rome Statute yesterday, officially recognizing the International Criminal Court (ICC). The decision comes as Armenia’s relationship with Russia has soured after Russian peacekeepers failed to stop an Azerbaijani attack last month in Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed region previously under the control of an ethnic Armenian group. The ICC has issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin over Russia’s alleged child abductions as part of its war in Ukraine, meaning Armenia is now technically obligated to arrest Putin should he visit the country.
  • India reportedly ordered Canada to recall 41 of its 62 diplomats in the country as the two nations continue to squabble over the Indian government’s alleged killing of a Sikh nationalist—and Canadian citizen—on Canadian soil. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t confirm India’s order, but said yesterday, “Obviously, we are going through an extremely challenging time with India right now, but that’s why it is so important for us to have diplomats on the ground working with the Indian government and there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”
  • Laphonza Butler was officially sworn in as a member of the Senate on Tuesday, filling the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s open seat after being appointed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Butler was previously the president of Emily’s List—a political action committee that funds female Democratic candidates who support abortion rights—and a former labor leader in California. 
  • James Craig—a retired Detroit police chief and self-described conservative populist—announced yesterday that he is running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat in Michigan being vacated by the retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Craig ran for governor of Michigan last year but was disqualified from the primary along with several other GOP candidates over signature forgeries on petitions to make the primary ballot. Mike Rogers—a former Michigan congressman who left office in 2015—is already running for the GOP nomination, and Peter Meijer is mulling a bid. Meijer, also a former congressman from the state, lost his House reelection bid in 2022 to a Trump-endorsed candidate in the primary.

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Democrats?

Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters following a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol on October 3, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Kevin McCarthy talks to reporters following a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol on October 3, 2023 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Minutes before 5 p.m. ET yesterday, Washingtonians in and around the Capitol building found the answer to a timeless question: If a gavel slams in the House and there’s no speaker around to hear it, does it make a sound?

For the first time in American history, lawmakers in the lower chamber of the United States Congress on Tuesday voted to remove the sitting speaker of the House. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy—who announced last night he will not seek the gavel again—enjoyed the third-shortest tenure of any occupant of the office in U.S. history, and the briefest run since 1876. Despite retaining the support of the vast majority of his conference, McCarthy saw eight Republicans side with Democrats to vote against their own party leader, ousting the California Republican from his post in a 216-210 vote.

“Unfortunately, four percent of our conference can join all the Democrats and dictate who can be the Republican speaker in this House,” said McCarthy during a press conference after the vote. “I don’t think that rule is good for the institution, but apparently I’m the only one.”

After weeks of threats, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz finally introduced a motion to vacate on Monday evening, but McCarthy started the day Tuesday optimistic about his chances to retain his position—though his comments at an early press conference perhaps betrayed that facade. “Keeping government open and paying our troops was the right decision,” he told reporters. “I stand by that decision. And at the end of the day if I have to lose my job over it, so be it.” As the day wore on, it became more and more clear that this was the most likely outcome.

Gaetz—who has despised McCarthy for years and has been publicly feuding with the speaker in recent weeks over the continuing resolution passed this weekend—led the charge against McCarthy, asserting that he could not be trusted after working with Democrats and President Joe Biden to keep the government open. “It is becoming increasingly clear who the speaker of the House already works for,” Gaetz said on Monday. “And it’s not the Republican conference.”

The rabble rouser from Florida was only able to bring a handful of his fellow Republicans along to that position—most GOP lawmakers are aware of the compromises necessary in divided government—meaning Democratic support would be needed to actually topple the speaker. Democrats initially seemed on the fence about whether or not to lend it to him—but after a Tuesday morning caucus meeting presented a united front against McCarthy. In a letter to his Democratic colleagues, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote “Given their unwillingness to break from MAGA extremism in an authentic and comprehensive manner, House Democratic leadership will vote yes on the pending Republican Motion to Vacate the Chair.”

Democrats cited a long list of reasons—including the speaker’s actions on January 6, 2021, his attempt to discredit the January 6 Committee, and his efforts to blame Democrats for the narrowly avoided government shutdown—for their decision to throw McCarthy to the Republican wolves.

If Democrats didn’t like McCarthy, however, it’s far from clear they’ll find his eventual successor preferable. Most early possible contenders come in varying shades of unacceptable to Democrats, and would likely be less amenable to continued Ukraine aid and less pragmatic when it comes to government shutdowns and timely funding votes. Theoretically, moderates in one party could team up with the other party to elect a more centrist speaker who would run a more coalition-style House—but Democrats have thus far been united in saying they’ll only vote for Jeffries.

Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina will serve as the speaker pro tempore until a new one is chosen—reportedly not until next week at the earliest. The House cannot conduct any business until a new speaker is elected, and prospective candidates are wasting no time gauging their support. 

Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana has begun to reach out to House Republicans about mounting a bid for the top job, as has Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma and Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota—currently the majority whip and third-ranking Republican—have also seen their names bandied about, though both men tamped down such speculation. Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas said he’ll nominate former President Donald Trump for the role, as the speaker technically does not need to be a sitting member of the House.

Outside of the eight defectors, Republicans are furious and looking at the vote as the latest example of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Many bemoan the total chaos suddenly thrust upon them, and worry they could be in for a long bout of endless votes. “Who are [the eight Republican defectors] going to accept?” asked Rep. Greg Murphy of North Carolina. “Are they going to attack him or her?” Others stressed their frustration with the staged purity tests coming from Gaetz and Co. “You want to come at me and call me a RINO?” fumed Rep. Chip Roy of Texas. “You can kiss my a—.” 

Even Trump weighed in on Truth Social, writing: “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves, why aren’t they fighting the Radical Left Democrats who are destroying our Country?” (It’s worth noting that, while Gaetz has claimed that he had Trump’s support in his quest to dump McCarthy, multiple Trump advisers suggested otherwise.)

Despite the cacophony of protestations, Gaetz was able to peel off enough Republican votes to build a majority coalition with Democrats and oust the speaker. Many of the eight Republicans—Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, and Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana—celebrated their votes with fundraising emails sent to supporters. In the middle of a press scrum after the vote, Gaetz gushed about his victory. “It is to the benefit of this country that we have a better Speaker than Kevin McCarthy… McCarthy is a feature of the swamp.” 

After today’s circus, it remains to be seen which brave Republicans will offer themselves up for the thankless, ill-fated job. “Frankly, one has to wonder whether the House is governable at all,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota after McCarthy announced he would not run again for speaker. “I’m not sure I would wish this job on anyone.”

Cold Turkey

Standing before both the NATO logo and the Swedish flag at the Vilnius summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson piled their hands together in what looked like a loose approximation of a Girl Scout friendship circle. Kristersson and Stoltenberg sported big grins—because Erdoğan had just signaled his support for Sweden’s NATO accession after more than a year of blocking the Nordic nation’s membership in the defensive alliance. 

That was July. Two-and-a-half months later, Sweden still isn’t a member of NATO, and that friendship circle is looking a little less warm. The Turkish parliament reconvenes this week after its summer recess, and ratifying Sweden’s membership isn’t currently on the agenda. It’s still possible they’ll move to approve Stockholm’s accession—which would likely prompt Hungary’s Viktor Orbán to greenlight his country’s parliament to do the same, removing Sweden’s final obstacle. But despite his earlier pronouncements, Erdoğan and members of his government have continued to ask for concessions. In particular, Erdoğan is seeking to purchase U.S. F-16 fighter jets—a prospect that may now be more likely after Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez stepped down as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee following his indictment on federal bribery charges

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Finland and Sweden reversed a half-century of neutrality to announce their desire to join NATO—and to do so together. That plan was almost universally welcomed in the West as a massive own-goal by Russian President Vladimir Putin—with the notable exceptions of Erdoğan in Ankara and Orbán in Budapest. Erdoğan’s objections were mostly to Sweden’s membership, rather than Finland’s: Sweden’s large population of ethnic Kurds and lax free speech and association laws, Turkey argued, protected terrorist activity by a radical Kurdish element, the PKK. Many Turkey-watchers also thought that some of Erdogan’s most vociferous complaints were positioning for his May election, allowing him to appear to stand up to the West. Prospective NATO members must have the unanimous consent of—and parliamentary ratification by—all the alliance’s members to join, and it was clear that Erdoğan would take more prodding to get to “yes.”

Loyal TMD readers will recall that in May 2022, Erdoğan and his Finnish and Swedish counterparts met in Madrid to hammer out an agreement that provided a roadmap to Turkish approval, in the hope that both Stockholm and Helsinki would be members of the alliance by the July 2023 NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Erdoğan’s demands included stricter anti-terrorism measures from Sweden, and potentially the extradition of Kurdish figures wanted by the Turkish government—though it was unclear if this was something the Swedish government would or could provide. As the dream of a swift Swedish induction faded, Finland ultimately decoupled its membership from its neighbor’s, and Helsinki joined the alliance in April of this year. 

The Swedish government made efforts to meet many of Erdoğan’s demands in the year leading up to the summit, even as protests against Erdoğan and Turkey rocked Stockholm and roiled tempers in Ankara. In November, Swedish lawmakers changed the country’s constitution to set limits on freedom of association for activities related to promoting terrorism, and subsequently passed a new anti-terrorism law making it easier to prosecute terrorist activities in the country including financing or association with a terrorist group—even when the activity is not directly related to a specific terror attack. Over the summer, the Swedish government did agree to extradite two men Turkey considered terrorists for their alleged association with the Gülen movement—followers of the now-U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen—which the Turkish government holds responsible for a failed 2016 coup attempt. 

Those changes—plus, reportedly, a promise that Sweden would back Turkey’s own bid to join the European Union—seemed to satisfy Erdoğan, and, with much fanfare, he pledged his support for Sweden’s NATO membership at the Vilnius summit in July. (Following his announcement, Sweden’s supreme court blocked the extradition effort, ruling that the men had not engaged in activity that was illegal under Swedish law, a requirement for extradition.) 

The missing piece was parliamentary approval in Turkey—and eventually Hungary, which has followed Erdoğan’s lead. At the time of Erdoğan’s announcement in July, the Turkish parliament was in its summer recess. Erdoğan had the power to call a special session of parliament to vote on the question immediately—his party commands a significant parliamentary majority. But he didn’t. 

Why? Stockholm’s concessions—and Erdoğan’s election victory—weren’t the only keys to clinching the deal. In fact, they might not have been much of a factor at all. As much as “90 percent” of Erdoğan’s motivation for delaying the process comes from his long-held desire to purchase U.S. F-16 jets and kits to update his country’s existing fleet, says Sinan Ciddi, a nonresident senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “That’s all been part of the dangle, rope-a-dope tactics used by Erdoğan,” Ciddi told TMD. In 2019, Turkey was booted from the U.S. F-35 program for purchasing a Russian missile system, and therefore pivoted to the older planes. While the Biden administration had originally maintained that transfer was not contingent on Sweden’s accession, it did publicly signal—immediately following Erdoğan’s Vilnius announcement—that it was in favor of letting Erdoğan purchase the warplanes. 

Selling Turkey the fighter jets, however, requires the leaders of the relevant congressional committees to approve that transfer. Democratic Sen. Menendez—then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee—had much less compunction about explicitly linking his demands of Turkey to his approval of the jets and the update kits. He had a laundry list of complaints about Ankara—not just holding up Sweden’s membership, but also the country’s disputes with fellow NATO member Greece—that he wanted Turkey to address before he would greenlight the sale. 

It’s clear there’s a contingency at play for Erdoğan, too—one that creates a chicken-and-egg problem for the U.S. and NATO. “If they keep their own promises, our parliament will keep the promise given,” Erdoğan said last week of the jet transfer.

Recent shakeups in the U.S. Senate, however, may change the state of play. Menendez—under federal indictment for allegations of bribery—surrendered his chairmanship, and his replacement seems more likely to compromise. Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland has been less strident in his critiques of Turkey, but hasn’t said whether he would allow the transfer to go forward. If the Turkish parliament approves Sweden’s membership, he said last week, “Then we should have the NATO issue resolved, but there are other issues in addition to just NATO accession that needs to be part of our discussions going forward.” 

The Republican ranking member, Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, also seemed to link the F-16 sale to Turkey’s NATO decision. “There has been a path forward for Turkey to get the F-16 for many months,” he told TMD. “If Turkey decides to act like a responsible NATO ally and do what it should have done last year, and I believe it will, I expect that path to continue.” (Risch previously blocked a weapons transfer to Hungary over its failure to ratify Sweden’s membership.) 

Regardless of the reality, Erdoğan views the changing of the guard as an opportunity to finally get what he wants from the U.S. “One of our most important problems regarding the F-16s were the activities of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez against our country,” he said last week. “Menendez’s exit gives us an advantage but the F-16 issue is not an issue that depends only on Menendez.” 

Turkish Vice President Cevdet Yılmaz paid lip service this week to the idea that Sweden had more work to do on counterterrorism to earn the parliament’s vote, saying its application would not pass until “there are real concrete steps taken against the terrorist groups or individuals that work openly against Turkey.” But again, Sweden’s counterterrorism efforts may be a small piece of the pie. “When actually Turkish officials talk about Sweden not having completed the reforms, I think that’s just a placeholder for the United States not yet having sent the notification to the Congress” of the F-16 purchase, Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı, the director of the German Marshall Fund’s Ankara office, tells TMD

Nevertheless, Ünlühisarcıklı believes the issue will be resolved within the next month—in part due to Menendez’s absence—as the Turkish parliament’s work gets underway. “I think the chances that soon this bottleneck will be overcome is high.”

Worth Your Time

  • Even as the economy continues to perform well on a macro level and unemployment remains low, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton argue that one reason for this discontent can be found in sobering research on the relationship between life expectancy and education. “What the economic statistics obscure in the averages is that there is not one but two Americas—and a clear line demarcating the division is educational attainment,” Case and Deaton write for the New York Times. “Almost two-thirds of American adults do not have college degrees, and they have become increasingly excluded from good jobs, political power and social esteem. As their lives and livelihoods are threatened, their longevity declines.” The discrepancy is shockingly clear in life expectancy rates. “Life expectancy at age 25 (adult life expectancy) for those with four-year college degrees rose to 59 years on the eve of the pandemic—so an average individual would live to 84—up from 54 years (or 79 years old) in 1992,” they write. “During the pandemic, by 2021, the expectation slipped a year. But we were staggered to discover that for those without college degrees, life expectancy reached its peak around 2010 and has been falling since, an unfolding disaster that has attracted little attention in the media or among elected officials. Adult life expectancy for this group started out two and a half years lower, at 51.6, in 1992—so an average individual would live to nearly 77 years old. But by 2021, it was 49.8 years (or almost 75 years old), roughly eight and a half years less than people with college degrees, and those without had lost 3.3 years during the pandemic.”

Presented Without Comment

ABC News: Judge in New York Fraud Case Bars Trump From Making Personal Attacks on Court Staff After He Disparages His Law Clerk

Also Presented Without Comment

Wall Street Journal: Meta Plans to Charge $14 a Month for Ad-Free Instagram or Facebook

Toeing the Company Line

  • The drama of McCarthy’s ouster, the political prospects of Ron DeSantis, and Turkey playing hardball with Sweden. Kevin was joined by Andrew, Drucker, and Mary to discuss all that and more on last night’s Dispatch Live (🔒). Members who missed the conversation can catch a rerun—either video or audio-only—by clicking here.
  • In the newsletters: Haley explains how Democrats decided Kevin McCarthy’s fate and Nick argues (🔒) that an RFK Jr. third party bid could hurt Biden more than Trump.
  • On the podcasts: Chris is joined by Mike Duncan on the Remnant to provide a crash course in Ancient Roman history and politics. 
  • On the site today: Kevin outlines the failures of the Jones Act and Jim Capretta explains why Medicare per-capita costs aren’t really slowing down much.

Let Us Know

Did Democrats reward Gaetz’s antics by helping him oust McCarthy—and incentivize further stunts down the road?

James Scimecca works on editorial partnerships for The Dispatch, and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he served as the director of communications at the Empire Center for Public Policy. When James is not promoting the work of his Dispatch colleagues, he can usually be found running along the Potomac River, cooking up a new recipe, or rooting for a beleaguered New York sports team.

Mary Trimble is the editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, she interned at The Dispatch, in the political archives at the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po), and at Voice of America, where she produced content for their French-language service to Africa. When not helping write The Morning Dispatch, she is probably watching classic movies, going on weekend road trips, or enjoying live music with friends.

Grayson Logue is the deputy editor of The Morning Dispatch and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in political risk consulting, helping advise Fortune 50 companies. He was also an assistant editor at Providence Magazine and is a graduate student at the University of Edinburgh, pursuing a Master’s degree in history. When Grayson is not helping write The Morning Dispatch, he is probably working hard to reduce the number of balls he loses on the golf course.