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Republican Montana congressman on the Speaker of the House vacancy

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Call it history-making. Call it chaos. Call it uncharted territory. Congress has never been here before. The Republican-led House of Representatives is without a speaker after a group of eight Republicans joined Democrats to remove Kevin McCarthy from his leadership role yesterday. McCarthy said he has no regrets.

SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING

KEVIN MCCARTHY: I leave the speakership with a sense of pride, accomplishment and, yes, optimism.

SHAPIRO: His fireable offense - reaching across the aisle to avoid a government shutdown over the weekend. We are joined now by one of the eight Republicans who joined with all of the Democrats to vote McCarthy out. Matt Rosendale is a GOP member of Congress from Montana. Thanks for being here. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

MATT ROSENDALE: Thanks for having me on today, Ari. I appreciate it.

SHAPIRO: To start with the simplest question, why did you vote to remove a speaker of your own party?

ROSENDALE: Well, the fireable offense wasn't working with Democrats. And I would also refuse to accept the premise that we're plunged into chaos without a speaker, OK? We have a very capable speaker pro tem in Patrick McHenry from North Carolina.

SHAPIRO: Well, let's start with the fireable offense. What was it?

ROSENDALE: What was the fireable offense was the desire and the actions of the speaker over the last nine months as he continued to violate the trust and confidence of the conference. We started off, after he was elected speaker in January, with a group of individuals that was working extremely hard to pass the most conservative agenda that we possibly could. And we saw that in the form of H.R. 1, the domestic energy legislation. We saw that in H.R. 2...

SHAPIRO: So you - as you argue, things were getting done. And I understand that the leader your party chose to elect was not making choices that you or the other seven Republicans support. But with more than 200 Republicans in Congress, when any handful of them can blow things up, can anyone lead this caucus going forward?

ROSENDALE: Sure. And we saw that coming together and accomplishment of work. The only place that we didn't see that, Ari, was when it came to the big financial fiscal issues. And instead of trying to compromise with Democrats, what we saw was Speaker McCarthy go and allow the Democrat Party to dictate the terms of the legislation that was going to be passed.

SHAPIRO: Well, I know he would characterize that differently. But here's how Republican strategist Liam Donovan, also a member of your party, described the situation today on NPR's Morning Edition.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

LIAM DONOVAN: We always knew that there was going to be this empowered rump that had a nihilistic streak. And if joined by all Democrats, this was always going to be the case.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Rosendale, that is a member of your party referring to you as an empowered rump with a nihilistic streak. What do you say to that?

ROSENDALE: Again, if I could complete my sentence...

SHAPIRO: Please.

ROSENDALE: ...What we saw was a lot of successes until such time that Leader McCarthy started dealing with the large fiscal issues that we must address. And he violated the trust and confidence of the conference, OK? Any time that you allow the conference to get to the deadline of the debt ceiling - that was engineered by Kevin McCarthy. We knew, since the budget act of 1974, that the appropriation bills were all due. The 12 separate appropriation bills were all due by June 30. It's in statute. They weren't provided to us by June 30. They weren't provided to us by July 30. They weren't provided to us by August 30.

SHAPIRO: So without getting too deep into the deadlines, the dates and the details, you said Kevin McCarthy violated the trust and confidence of the conference, the Republican Party in the House. Two-hundred-ten members of the Republican Party in the House apparently still have trust and confidence in him. They voted to keep him in the role. Eight Republicans in the House joined with all the Democrats to effectively fire him. How does that reflect his losing the trust and confidence of your party? Didn't he just lose the trust and confidence of eight members of your party?

ROSENDALE: No. I don't accept that premise either, Ari. Ones you saw is before midnight last night, after the king was removed from the throne. Five people have already raised their hands and said that they wanted to be the speaker. And this is the exact conversation that we had back in January. When someone wields that much power and they are concerned about the retribution that's going to be imposed upon them, then very few people are willing to stand up and take that challenge on. But now...

SHAPIRO: Well, what are you hearing from some of those 210 House Republicans who voted to keep McCarthy in the role?

ROSENDALE: I literally started hearing from them last week, that they were glad that this process was taking place, and they thanked me for pursuing this avenue because they knew that we could not continue down this path of fiscal ruin and piling an additional several trillion dollars onto the already huge $33 trillion national debt.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about who succeeds McCarthy. Jim Jordan has said he is running for the speaker position. Back in January, eight years after he had opposed McCarthy's first bid for speaker, Jim Jordan nominated McCarthy and lobbied other Republicans to vote for him too. Here's what he said.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JIM JORDAN: I think Kevin McCarthy is the right guy to lead us. I really do, or I wouldn't be standing up here giving this speech. I came in with Kevin. We came in the same time, 16 years ago. We haven't always agreed on everything, but I like his fight. I like his tenacity.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Rosendale, what do you think about Congressman Jordan choosing to run for speaker now?

ROSENDALE: I'll tell you, I am very excited that we're going to have a forum on Tuesday so that everyone who wants to be considered for the speaker's position is going to have the ability to share their vision and their leadership skills with the entire conference and prove to us that they earned, that they are worthy of that position. And I will tell you that the No. 1 trait that I'm looking for is someone that I can trust, someone that I can trust that when they make commitments to the conference, that when they leave that room, that they're not going to go back on those commitments when they sit down with either Hakeem Jeffries or Chuck Schumer or Joe Biden and negotiations take place. We have to have compromise because we have divided government. But you cannot allow the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to accept dictates from the Democrat Party. They cannot dictate our policy.

SHAPIRO: But Republicans in the House have such a narrow majority that when you represent the views of the conference, there's never going to be consensus. More than 200 people are never going to all agree on something. Doesn't that inevitably empower a small group, whether it's your group of eight or some other, to just tear everything down if they don't get exactly what they want?

ROSENDALE: I don't think that where we saw the differences and the calls of removal of Kevin McCarthy was just seven or eight members. When we saw the debt ceiling package that he negotiated with the president without the conference, there was more Democrats - 169 Democrats supported that, and only 145 Republicans supported it. He had more support from Democrats. That's not the Republican leader. When we saw this continuing resolution get passed this weekend, it had 209 Democrats and only 125 Republicans that supported it. You can't say that you're the leader of the Republican Party and have the majority of the Democrats supporting and passing your legislation.

SHAPIRO: Well, this is the first time the Republican Party has voted to oust a speaker. Do you think it'll be the last time?

ROSENDALE: Oh, I have no idea. I have no idea.

SHAPIRO: Congressman Matt Rosendale, Republican representative from Montana, thank you so much for talking with us.

ROSENDALE: Thank you, Ari. Thanks for having me on.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEATNUTS' "WILD, WILD, WHAT (INTERLUDE)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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Ari Shapiro
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.