Kevin McCarthy started speaking on the floor of the House of Representatives not long after 8 p.m. Thursday night. He stopped just after 5 a.m. Friday morning, setting the record for the longest continuous speech in modern House history. Ironically, he didn’t have much to say.
The minority leader’s address was designed specifically to delay the chamber’s vote on President Biden’s $1.85 trillion Build Back Better social spending bill. He was able to speak for so long because of the “Magic Minute” rule, which allows the speeches of each party’s leader to count as only a single minute of the allotted debate time, regardless of how long the leader actually speaks. In 2018, Nancy Pelosi spoke for eight hours and seven minutes in an effort to convince Republicans to allow a vote on an immigration bill that would provide protection for undocumented migrants brought to the United States as children. McCarthy’s overnight speech bested Pelosi’s then-record by 25 minutes.
McCarthy didn’t need very long to drift into incoherence. Here he is as as he approached the two-hour mark:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tells a bizarre story in which he claims a Chinese general told his "friend in the Senate" that "you’re weak, America, because you believe in God, and you take fentanyl."
Closing in on hour two of his speech against the Build Back Better Act. pic.twitter.com/gs09kTj0kV
— The Recount (@therecount) November 19, 2021
Democrats were amused by McCarthy’s antics. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) fired up Instagram Live to roast his speech. “Live, from the cloakroom of the U.S. House of Representatives, one of the worst, lowest-quality speeches I have ever had the absolute atrocious lack of privilege to witness,” she said.
She was joined by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who helped her workshop some of her insults.
AOC: “If you’re going to be evil, you might as well be an evil genius, not an evil—”
Raskin: “There we go!”
AOC: “I mean, at least give us some pizzazz with the undercutting of social safety nets.”
“What this is is an elaborate, extended, and painfully protracted political audition by Kevin McCarthy for Donald Trump, to show that he can be as imbecilic and authoritarian and idiotic as the rest of them, because he’s afraid he’s going to get outflanked by Jim Jordan or [Steve] Scalise or someone else,” Raskin added. “This is his audition for Donald Trump to try to be speaker, on the assumption that they’re going to win the House — which they’re not.”
Once it became clear that McCarthy wasn’t stopping anytime soon, Democrats were sent home to get some rest before reconvening in the morning to vote. Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-Md.) called him out again around the four-hour mark. “It is a feat of epic proportions to speak for four hours straight and not produce a single memorable phrase, original insight or even a joke,” he tweeted just after 1 a.m.
It is a feat of epic proportions to speak for four hours straight and not produce a single memorable phrase, original insight or even a joke.
McCarthy thinks he is a wit but so far he has proved he is only half right.
— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) November 19, 2021
Despite McCarthy’s best efforts, Democrats are expected to vote on the historic social spending and climate change package Friday morning. The bill is likely to run into trouble in the Senate, where centrist Democrats are eyeing changes, but taken in tandem with the landmark infrastructure package the House passed earlier this month — and which Biden signed into law on Monday — it’s been a pretty productive few weeks for the chamber’s Democrats, despite what Kevin McCarthy has to say.