Extemp Content and Strategy Topic Analyses

Keeping Up With the Republicans

Following chaotic Speaker of the House elections, the future of the Republican party remains highly uncertain. In this topic analysis, Siri Ural investigates causes and consequences of divisions in the right wing.

I’m so excited to report that everyone’s favorite show, Keeping up with the Kardashians, has made a comeback! Except this time, our beloved Kardashians are elderly representatives who are having way too much fun in politics. 

Talk about prime AGD material.

In a dramatic 15th election, the House of Representatives elected Kevin McCarthy of California to be their speaker. Despite the Republican party holding the majority, McCarthy’s supporters failed to vote him in for four days, the longest leader-less run the House has had in one hundred years. While McCarthy may have secured the position after one, two… maybe fifteen tries, the question remains: what is the future of politics for the divided Republican party?

Today’s topic breakdown answers the following questions:

  1. Why were votes being held back?
  2. What concessions were made to obtain the votes?
  3. What does this mean for the future of the party?


The rebellion against McCarthy comes as a (sort of) surprise, when as The Hill tells us, from opposing the Democrats’ 2009 stimulus bill to helping orchestrate the biggest legislative power shift since 1948, he was a major factor in the revamping of the Conservative movement. Ironically enough, the extreme conservatives are the exact ones rebelling against him now. 

19 of the 20 lawmakers who held back from voting publicly align with the House Freedom Caucus – this is the most conservative sector of the Republican party. Some notable names here include Lauren Boebert (CO), Scott Perry (PA), and of course, Matt Gaetz (FL) who called McCarthy a squatter. That last bit of information? Absolutely necessary.

The simple reason behind their rebellion? They didn’t believe he’d be effective. More specifically, McCarthy a) would be ‘too malleable’ when working with Democrats b) would jeopardize Republican prospects to expand his own career and c) didn’t endorse some of these representatives in their primary elections. Beyond simply not voting for McCarthy, Andy Biggs of Arizona even went so far as to put in his own bid for Speaker, stating that he believed the American people “want action and results.”


As we all know, nothing good ever came out of history without compromise. However, the terms included in the rule package – which many Republicans were left in the dark on – will be sure to haunt McCarthy’s nightmares for a very long time. Filtering out the most important notes:

  1. Any one representative can call for a vote on the removal of the Speaker. This is a shift from the past few years, where Nancy Pelosi mandated a majority vote in order to bring the matter to the House floor. Now, any single legislator can call for removal. 
  2. Restoration of the “Holman Rule”, where amendments can be made to appropriations bills. By voting on amendments, representatives hold the power to reduce salaries of specific employees and cut/defund specific programs
  3. Pushing out the conservative legislative agenda. This includes voting on term limits for House members, end to COVID mandates and emergency funding, and various appropriations bills.
  4. Guaranteed seats for Republicans on Rules Committee and representation on the Appropriations Committee. No specific names were listed here, just vague generalizations. 


The implications of these concessions are severe. Perhaps the most concerning was C4, where McCarthy offered up 3 of 9 Republican seats on the Rules Committee to members of the Freedom Caucus. To understand the gravity of this, we look to the process of moving legislation. Every bill that is considered by the House originates in a smaller committee, such as Energy and Commerce or Agriculture. If approved, the bill then faces the Rules Committee, where the committee can go as far as to almost rewrite the legislation. 

Since ⅓ of these Republicans will originate from a Caucus which seems to take pleasure in causing chaos, in order to get a seven vote majority, the 6 more moderate leaning Republicans would either have to compromise with the four democrats or pull the extreme right-wingers on board. Therefore, the bills presented to the committee will almost always have resistance behind them, sidetracking political agendas. 

However, McCarthy’s future isn’t entirely doomed! With the return to the pre-Pelosi system (C1), his adversaries will attempt to disrupt his governance — but with a mere 20/222 rebelling as of right now, no severe legislative impact is projected.

In the meantime, new party leadership is beginning to elevate their platforms. Gov. Chris Sunnu (NH), Gov. Larry Hogan (MD), and former Gov. Chris Christie (NJ) are only a few of those who have stepped forward to tease their own campaigns. By late spring, we will be sure to see a heated Republican primary amongst hopeful right-wing candidates and former president Donald Trump.

On that note, we can also see the waning influence of former president Donald Trump. Although he endorsed Kevin McCarthy right off the bat, that didn’t deter the 20 MAGA supporting conservatives from maintaining their positions. As stated by former House Speaker and Republican Newt Gingrich, the moderate versus conservative battle will lead to a “Never-Trump and an Always-Trump collision.”

Regardless of your political alignment, one thing is for sure. From intense friend group drama to lessons on never giving up, season 2023 of Keeping up with the Republicans will definitely be an interesting watch!

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