Over the weekend, US House of Representatives speaker McCarthy and president Biden announced a tentative agreement on raising the debt ceiling. The deal—almost certain to pass Congress later this week—represents a typical Neoliberal fiscal policy deal. Ever since neoliberal capitalism policies were introduced under president Carter in the late 1970s, and subsequently expanded dramatically under Reagan, Neoliberal fiscal policy has been characterized by accelerating Pentagon and war spending; simultaneous cutting of business-investor taxes; acceptance of consequent escalating budget deficits—and in turn US national debt levels; and the use deficit/debt to cap and reduce social program spending.
More than 50 political parties in the island of Taiwan staged a protest outside Taoyuan Airport in Taipei on Friday against regional leader Tsai Ing-wen’s meeting with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. The Friday activity, themed “Anti-Taiwan independence, anti-interference” started around 7:30 pm and lasted for more than an hour. More than 200 people from over 50 political parties – including the Labor Party of Taiwan, the Reunification Alliance Party, the Chinese Unification Promotion Party, and the New Party – gathered outside the airport, calling for reunification and waving banners with slogans such as “Tsai-McCarthy selling Taiwan” and “We want no war, but peace.”
On April 5th at 10 am protesters from the Chinese community, Pivot to Peace, CODEPINK, the ANSWER Coalition and other communities gathered at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA as U.S. Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy and other politicians met with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-Wen. In the final stop of her Americas tour, Tsai’s meeting with McCarthy signals yet another provocation on U.S.-China relations. This comes just months after McCarthy’s predecessor, Nancy Pelosi deliberately violated the “One China Policy” agreed upon in the joint U.S.-China Shanghai Communique by visiting Taiwan.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) met with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in California on Wednesday, marking the highest level meeting between US and Taiwanese officials since the previous House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, visited Taipei in August 2022. The meeting is historic and risks provoking a major Chinese response as it makes McCarthy the highest-level US official to host a Taiwanese leader on US soil since Washington severed diplomatic relations with Taipei in 1979 to open up with Beijing. China has warned strongly against the plans and launched a naval patrol in the Taiwan Strait ahead of the meeting. At this point, it’s not clear how far China’s military response will go.
In 2021 Democratic Party progressives asked those members of congress who claimed to share their political priorities to stand up to their leadership, which meant standing up for the people. They knew that Joe Biden promised to veto any legislation providing free, universal healthcare, known as Medicare for All. But they did what any political activist should do. They made the demand anyway. The call to #ForcetheVote was a request for House members to withhold their votes for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House unless she committed herself to bringing Medicare for All to a vote. The House members who called themselves progressives did nothing of the sort. They elected Nancy Pelosi without demanding that she bring Medicare for All or any other issue for a vote. The Squad and the Progressive Caucus, all failed to do what their supporters wanted.
The U.S. Congress’ dysfunction was on full display through 15 rounds of votes for the “Speaker of the House” position. The rivalry, trading, dealing, secret and public concessions, within the Republican Party, and even physical scuffles were in clear view. The multiple votes and the open floor fights are a preamble of the coming session. During the theater of numerous votes, the House of Representatives ground to a halt. Without a Speaker elected, no other body in the House can function or even convene meetings, nor can the new members of the House be sworn in. Since the Republicans had a majority (a slim majority, 222 Republicans, 212 Democrats) in the House, they chose the Speaker, who is right behind the vice president in the list for succession to the presidency. But 218 votes were needed to make Kevin McCarthy, a conservative California Republican with eight terms in Congress, Speaker.
Our political class does not govern. It entertains. It plays its assigned role in our fictitious democracy, howling with outrage to constituents and selling them out. The Squad and the Progressive Caucus have no more intention of fighting for universal health care, workers’ rights or defying the war machine than the Freedom Caucus fights for freedom. These political hacks are modern versions of Sinclair Lewis’s slick con artist Elmer Gantry, cynically betraying a gullible public to amass personal power and wealth. This moral vacuity provides the spectacle, as H.G. Wells wrote, of “a great material civilization, halted, paralyzed.” It happened in Ancient Rome. It happened in Weimar Germany. It is happening here.
Republican Kevin McCarthy lost a vote to be Speaker of the House. Then he lost again. And again. Then Donald Trump called for all Republican congresspeople to support McCarthy. Then McCarthy lost three more times. This is the chaotic scene that unfolded on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday and Wednesday. The wafer-thin Republican majority — their spoils from the aborted red wave — split itself apart at the first possible juncture. Despite (and perhaps because of) being the hand-picked leader of the Republican establishment, McCarthy was unable to win the support of the right of his party. So, for six consecutive votes, McCarthy was defeated due to spoiler candidates run by the Republican right wing. It doesn’t even seem like the GOP Right — primarily organized as “the Freedom Caucus” — is trying to win speakership with a candidate of their choice — three different candidates have been put forward by the right-wing over the past two days, none gaining more than 25 votes — but rather that they are trying to show that, with such a tight majority, their bloc is able to exert disproportionate political power.