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Kevin McCarthy's weird 8.5-hour rant contained little talk about the actual BBB bill. That wasn't an accident.
The House minority leader's tantrum in search of a cause, unpacked.
“Gas prices! Thanksgiving! A border!”
Those random words came out of the mouth of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy not even halfway through the eight-and-a-half-hour speech he delivered on the House floor from Thursday evening into Friday morning as part of a desperate, failed bid for attention and to derail the “Build Back Better” bill.
That apparent stream of consciousness came shortly after McCarthy told a story about a swim meet where all countries get destroyed other than America. (Don’t worry, it didn’t make sense to anyone else either.) He also said some weird stuff about fentanyl and God.
McCarthy talked about how seeing Jimmy Carter wearing a sweater on TV when he was in 6th grade made him a Republican; made up a number of words; and in one of his more coherent passages, whined about Donald Trump not winning a Nobel Peace Prize.
Even C-SPAN seemed to lose patience around the three-hour mark.
House Democrats, meanwhile, savagely and hilariously trolled him.
While McCarthy went on many strange tangents, he spent very little time railing against the BBB bill itself. That wasn’t an accident, because the legislation is very popular.
BBB provides more than $550 for clean energy and climate, nearly $400 billion for child care and preschool, about $200 billion for child tax and earned income tax credits, includes regulations to drastically reduce the price of insulin — and much, much more.
This handy CNN graphic breaks it down:
As Data for Progress detailed earlier this month, all of this stuff is popular with voters, and remains so even when they’re informed that tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals help pay for it.
With a +29-point margin, likely voters support the Build Back Better plan. The plan is very popular with both Democrats and Independents, who support the plan by respective margins of +83 and +19 percentage points. One-third of Republican voters also say they support the plan.
We then tested how the Build Back Better framework polls when voters are informed of the taxes that will pay for the investments. We find Build Back Better is backed by a +30-point margin of support when respondents are informed of how the plan is to be paid for. The plan becomes slightly more popular with both Democrats and Independents, who support the plan with respective margins of +84 and +25 percentage points after they hear of the taxes that will pay for the investments. Thirty-four percent of Republicans support the plan when told how it will be paid for.
Given all this, it makes sense that McCarthy opted for performative ranting and raving instead of trying to make a case against popular policies that will help people.
To the extent that McCarthy did engage with the substance of BBB, it was to yell about its $1.75 trillion price tag. But the effectiveness of that talking point was diminished earlier Thursday by the Congressional Budget Office, which found the bill will increase the federal deficit by a relatively paltry $16 billion a year (and questions remain about whether the $80 billion it allocates for increased IRS enforcement will mitigate even that impact).
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McCarthy’s speech began hours after former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows criticized him during an interview, and floated the idea of Trump (and not McCarthy) becoming Speaker of the House if Republicans have success in the midterms next year. Those comments fueled speculation that Trump might also not be happy with McCarthy following 13 House Republicans defecting from his position earlier this week and voting for the bipartisan infrastructure bill.
But if McCarthy’s big speech was meant to serve as an audition for Speaker, it was a flop. And after the House voted to pass BBB on Friday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi was aggressively disinterested in talking about him at all.
And for good reason — House Democrats have much better and more important things to talk about right now, while McCarthy remains focused on buttering up Trump.