Aaron Gulbransen and Carol Swain Discuss the Political Theater Surrounding the U.S. House Speaker’s Election

Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed official guest host Aaron Gulbransen and all-star panelist Carol Swain in studio to speculate whether or not Kevin McCarthy will be elected Speaker of the House.

Leahy: I’m in the studio with Carol Swain, all-star panelist, good friend, and the official guest host of The Tennessee Star Report and all-star panelist Aaron Gulbransen. Okay, you ready for a quiz, Carol and Aaron?

Swain: All right.

Leahy: All right, here we go. Who said the following. Who was quoted in Politico in September saying the following about Kevin McCarthy, the Minority Leader of the House who’s up today for consideration as Speaker of the House? “He’s earned the right to lead the caucus. I’ll be supporting him.” Who said that in September to Politico, Aaron Gulbransen?

Gulbransen: That would be the soon-to-be sworn-in for the Fifth District Congressman Andy Ogles.

Leahy: That’s what he said in September. He’s saying something different today. We don’t know how Andy’s going to vote. He’s about to be sworn in. But he is part of this. If you got to kind of figure out how this is all playing out.

There are five members of the House who said they’re never, under any circumstances, allegedly going to vote for Kevin McCarthy. He’s not in that group. But there’s another group of nine that he’s a member of.

He signed a letter, and in essence, they said, unless you totally cave to us on all of these issues and allow us to kick you out if we don’t like you, we’re not going to vote for you. I’m paraphrasing.

Gulbransen: Yes. And the other day, Leader McCarthy issued a proposed rules package that was a concession for everything that the wavering or outright opposed votes for him were asking for, apparently both publicly and privately.

My position the entire time has been that you have various members of Congress, especially the five, that have banded together to get concessions out of McCarthy. What I think and this is pure speculation is why there’s even more wavering and now specifically Andy Ogles and a few of the others is there are probably some more rules they’d like.

But more importantly, I think, on that, is committee representation by ostensibly conservatives in the Freedom Caucus, of which Congressman Ogles is going to be a member as soon as he’s sworn in today.

Leahy: In a couple of hours.

Gulbransen: In a few hours. I think probably the most contentious thing is there are probably one or two people that were in line for committee chairmanship. I don’t know. I could see the Freedom Caucus being opposed to Dan Crenshaw getting any sort of chairmanship.

Maybe McCarthy wanted him to get something. That’s just again, that is speculation off the top of my head. From what I’ve heard, the two people in line and one who’s not involved in this, this is all essentially political analysis.

Swain: Gossip.

Leahy: That’s what he meant to say, gossip.

Gulbransen: One usually follows the other. But the two people who were in competition, essentially, for the Chairmanship of Homeland Security were Dan Crenshaw and Congressman Mark Green.

Leahy: I’d vote for Congressman Mark Green.

Swain: There’s definitely a problem with Crenshaw.

Leahy: Yes. Carol, let me ask you this question about this. To me, and I think you and I may have a little different view on this. All of this stuff should have been resolved a month ago, and here we are.

Today is the day when a speaker is going to be elected. Maybe or maybe not. I think this shows weakness among the Republicans and a lack of unity. And I think the people that are delighted by all this are the Democrats.

Swain: The Democrats are always delighted when there is conflict among Republicans. But I think healthy debate is good. I don’t know why they were not able to reach a decision a month ago, but it’s important, I believe, for us to have a strong Republican voice and leadership structure.

And in the past, too many Republicans have gone along with the Democrats on issues that really matter to voters. So any accountability would be good. I, too, would be concerned if there was chaos that lasted more than a day.

Leahy: I think it could last more than a day.

Swain: This week.

Leahy: And you hinted at this, Aaron, earlier. Maybe there’s an epiphany among these five in the next 60 minutes. Maybe one of them says, yeah, give me a big concession, like a committee chairmanship, and I’ll switch to you, like, oh, I don’t know who might possibly do that.

Swain: Let me tell you this. The way politics works, I think that people can always be bought off, either publicly or privately. And so if the five actually stand together, that would be amazing.

Leahy: You think?

Swain: Yes, I think so. And I also think they have to save face because they have sort of locked themselves into a position where it would be difficult for them to back down now.

Leahy: Aaron, you want to join?

Gulbransen: In this high-stakes game of political chicken, which is what they’re playing.

Leahy: There you go. That’s what it is.

Gulbransen: The other possibility exists, of course where you could say you’re opposing somebody and then abstain. We will likely see at least one vote that abstains, in my opinion.

Leahy: So you think that this is a political charade, and then at the end of the day today, you think McCarthy will be speaker?

Gulbransen: I think most things that happen in D.C. are a form of a political charade. This one is certainly in line with that. I think McCarthy will wind up being speaker at the end of the day.

I think the media narrative is going to be is McCarthy narrowly avoids insurrection by his own party. He comes into the speakership as a weak speaker because of all this infighting.

Swain: We’ve seen this game before, and, yes, it seems like just like at the casino, the house always wins, and the establishment has an almost unbroken track record, except for the election of Trump in 2016.

Leahy: We talked about optimism or pessimism in 2023. Carol, I think that the mishandling of this, and when I say mishandling, I suppose McCarthy’s inability to close the deal earlier would be added to that mishandling. But nonetheless, I think it is a sign of weakness for the Republicans.

Instead of on day one coming out with announcements of investigations into the border security problem, everybody’s talking about, you know, will it be McCarthy or somebody else? That’s not good. That is a sign of weakness. And Democrats love to see Republicans weakened.

Swain: But even when Republicans are not weak and they’re taking reasonable stances, Democrats will always spin it that they are weakened or that they are right-wing or their extremists.

And so hopefully today the issues will be resolved. But as far as Leader McCarthy, it seems to me that it doesn’t bode well for his leadership that he hasn’t already closed the deal.

Leahy: Yes, exactly. And if you listen to him, right, I think he’s a fine enough fellow and he’s moderate. He doesn’t inspire confidence in terms of being a strong leader.

Swain: No, he doesn’t.

Leahy: All right, on that pessimistic note Carol.

Swain: Oh, wait a minute! We still can be positive.

Leahy: Okay, you’ll be positive, I’ll be realistic.

Swain: All things work together for the good.

Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Reporwith Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Carol Swain” by Carol M. Swain, PhD. Background Photo “U.S. Capitol” by Andrew Van Huss. CC BY-SA 4.0.










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