Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) finally became Speaker of the House late Friday after 15 humiliating rounds of voting. His pyrrhic victory wouldn’t have been possible without him backtracking like a coward, accusations of drinking on the House floor, and, apparently, several GOP congressmen with ailing families—including a prematurely-born newborn baby—being forced to stay in Washington or travel back in order to vote for McCarthy. One congressman’s baby had been born prematurely and his wife was hospitalized; the wife of another had a stroke; and a third volunteered to miss his mother’s funeral.
In the midst of voting last week, Politico’s Olivia Beavers reported that if the ballots kept dragging out, several Republicans might have to miss it. The list included Rep. Wesley Hunt (R-Texas), whose wife just gave birth; Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), whose mother recently died; and Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who had a “planned non-emergency medical procedure.” Beavers noted that Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) had “a family matter,” but said he wouldn’t miss any speaker votes.
The New York Times reported more information about Hunt’s situation, namely that he’d flown home “to be with his wife after her hospitalization for complications in the premature birth of their son this week.” Then McCarthy called Hunt back to Washington to vote for him, as he did Buck, because McCarthy was likely to lose a 15th vote without them.
Hern allegedly said he was prepared to stay in D.C. for as long as his vote was needed, potentially missing his mother’s funeral on Saturday. Republicans finally elected McCarthy late Friday night so, in theory, Hern made it to the funeral after all, but I hope his mother’s ghost haunts him for the rest of his days for even suggesting he’d miss it.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said Monday that Williams’ “family matter” was that his wife had a literal stroke, and he chose sticking with his party over going home to his family.
“Last week was painful for some members of Congress and I’ll tell you why,” Greene said on The Charlie Kirk Show. “I know some people just want to see nothing but full-on fights here in Congress, but holding it out all week hurt a couple of people. Roger Williams’ wife had a stroke and she was in the hospital—she’s still in the hospital—he could not go home to be with her because the 20 kept holding out.” (Greene was one of the few Freedom Caucus members to stand with McCarthy from the outset, and she and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert have been feuding over the vote.)
Greene continued by sharing more deeply personal information about her colleagues, hopefully with their permission: “Wesley Hunt, his wife had a baby four weeks early. The baby was in the hospital, still in the hospital.” When someone jumped in and noted the baby was “in NICU,” or the neonatal intensive care unit, Greene added: “The wife, his wife and the mother, she had to go to the hospital. Kevin Hern’s mother passed away. There were some very personal things happening that the public had no idea about, and there were great frustrations that grew while there were basically backroom deals being struck.”
It’s all the more galling when compared to the Democratic dads who brought their babies to the Capitol last week, including Rep. Jimmy Gomez (Calif.) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (Texas). As Jezebel’s Caitlin Cruz wrote on Friday: “Parenting is never seen as a man’s first job when they’re in a hetero relationship. Instead, their careers are seen as more important than taking care of a baby.” This is true of care work more broadly as well.
McCarthy is exemplary of a party that’s so desperate for power that it will demand people cast their families aside in their most trying moments.
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