House Democrats had hoped to pass their roughly $2 trillion Build Back Better domestic spending bill Thursday night, and they appeared to have the votes to do it, but shortly after midnight Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the House would recess until Friday morning so Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can say his piece. At that point, McCarthy had been speaking for about four hours, in a sort of quasi-filibuster of the bill.
"I don't know if they think because they left I'm going to stop," McCarthy responded on the House floor. "I'm not."
McCarthy wants the bill to pass "in the middle of the night," Hoyer told reporters. "We're going to do it in the light of day." A senior Democratic aide told Axios that "McCarthy is welcome to continue his raving as late into the night as he wants."
McCarthy's "winding speech" — which included lengthy references to the Hallmark Channel, his friendship with Elon Musk, and the COVID-19 booster shot he had just received, among other topics — was "a temporary setback on a day when Democrats mostly found reason to rejoice," The Washington Post reports. Key centrist Democrats said they were satisfied with a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill that found it added $367 billion to the deficit over 10 years — but didn't account for provisions the White House says will bring in at least an extra $400 billion in revenue.
And rather than being upset with McCarthy's stemwinder, Democrats seemed to have fun with it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office issued a blog post — "Is Kevin McCarthy Okay?" — that highlighted reporters razzing McCarthy "for losing the plot" during his "meandering rant." Other Democrats heckled McCarthy from the floor, prompting him to pause or yell back, and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) turned his Twitter account into a 280-character roast.
A handful of Republicans gathered around McCarthy and cheered his speech, but others seemed confused about his strategy. "I haven't been able to ask him" his motives, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) told reporters upon exiting the Capitol after midnight. "I don't know. Postpone, I guess."
Several congressional reporters and pundits suggested McCarthy was primarily trying to rally his caucus so they would elect him speaker if Republicans take the House in 2022.
And McCarthy, at one point, appeared to confirm that theory — in what The Daily Beast's Matt Fuller called "the first memorable line Kevin McCarthy has delivered in 4 hours and 49 minutes."
The Washington Post's David Weigel half-joked that everybody ultimately wins with McCarthy's quasi-filibuster.