Kevin McCarthy swings from Tiananmen Square and Musk to Trump not winning Nobel in rambling 8-hour speech

McCarthy ended speech after eight hours and 32 minutes, breaking Nancy Pelosi’s record for longest House floor speech

Stuti Mishra
Friday 19 November 2021 12:14
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<p>Kevin McCarthy speaking in the House during debate on Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill</p>

Kevin McCarthy speaking in the House during debate on Joe Biden’s Build Back Better bill

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House minority leader Kevin McCarthy rambled on for more than eight hours, swinging from topics such as the Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall to Elon Musk, Covid booster shots and Donald Trump not winning the Nobel, in an effort to delay the passage of the Democrats’ social spending and climate package.

Mr McCarthy was supposed to present the GOP’s arguments against the massive $2 trillion package, which aims to overhaul the country’s health care, education, climate, immigration and tax laws, on Thursday night before the House voted on the bill.

Instead, the Republican representative used the House rule of the “magic minute”, which allows the Speaker, majority leader and minority leader to speak for unlimited time, and went on to give a filibuster speech for hours, making it clear that he was doing it to delay the vote.

The vote will now be held on Friday morning as Democrats decided to leave the House amid the seemingly-unending speech.

“Let me be clear: Never in American history has so much been spent at one time — at one time,” the California representative said in a rare mention of the bill in an otherwise rambling speech. “Never in American history will so many taxes be raised and so much borrowing be needed to pay for all this reckless spending.”

His speech began at 8.38pm ET and touched on many topics like the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, his inability to afford a Tesla and his friendship with the company’s owner Elon Musk, the censuring of fellow Republican Paul Gosar, Kamala Harris’ laugh, Abraham Lincoln, and the best portraits in his office.

He ended the speech at 5.10am ET on Friday, after eight hours and 32 minutes. He broke the record for the longest House floor speech, which was previously held by Nancy Pelosi. In 2018, Ms Pelosi spoke for eight hours and seven minutes on an immigration reform bill.

In one bizarre example during his speech, Mr McCarthy said a Chinese general told his “friend in the Senate” that “you’re weak, America, because you believe in God, and you take fentanyl”.

In another random moment, Mr McCarthy said: “I can’t even afford to test drive a Tesla, and Elon is one of my best friends.”

He also told the House about places and times in history he wished he had witnessed personally. “I wish I could have been in Tiananmen Square, and I wish I could have been there knocking down the Berlin Wall,” he said.

Around midnight, he added that he had received a booster shot and might have a “little headache now”.

At the third hour of his speech, as some Democrats yelled and interrupted him and even left the floor, the representative said: “I’m just getting geared up.”

Another time, when a Democrat yelled “we’re leaving you, Kevin”, Mr McCarthy said: “I’m okay, I’ll be here”.

“For how long?” another Democrat shouted.

Around the six-hour mark, Mr McCarthy said: “I don’t know if this speech is going to make a difference.” But that didn’t stop him, as he continued.

When most seats in the House were empty, Mr McCarthy said: “I don’t know if they think because they left I’m going to stop... I’m not.”

The speech was severely criticised by Democrats.

New York representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called it “one of the worst, lowest quality speeches” she has ever heard. “This man clearly will not stop talking but has nothing to say,” she said.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued several statements to mock the speech. One statement was titled “Is Kevin McCarthy okay?”. Another statement titled “McCarthy Needs a Reality Check” called the speech a “temper tantrum” full of “unhinged claims”. It included a list of rebuttals to Mr McCarthy.

“House Democrats are preparing to pass landmark legislation to lower costs, fight inflation and make big corporations and the wealthiest pay their fair share,” the statement said. “But McCarthy is welcome to keep getting facts wrong on the House Floor.”

Democrat Adam Schiff said in a tweet: “If you took the worst orator in the world, gave him the worst speech in the world, and made him read it for the longest time in the world, that would be a lot like listening to Kevin McCarthy tonight... Except, probably better.”

While some Republicans seemed to enjoy the speech and egged the representative on on the floor, several others were confused about his point.

One Republican who stayed late for the speech, Rep Dan Newhouse, quipped to The Independent “I have no idea”, when asked what the point or objective of Mr McCarthy’s speech was.

But Republican leader Greg Pence said he loved the speech. “This is a historical moment for Kevin, for sure.”

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