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Republican strategist weighs in on what comes next after McCarthy ouster

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

For the first time in U.S. history, the members of the House of Representatives have voted to remove their speaker. California Congressman Kevin McCarthy is out of the job. It's the result of agitation from a hard-right group of his fellow Republicans.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MATT GAETZ: Chaos is Speaker McCarthy. Chaos is somebody who we cannot trust with their word.

SUMMERS: That is Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, who led the charge to remove McCarthy as speaker. The House then entered a recess. And so we've brought in Republican strategist Ron Bonjean for analysis. Welcome.

RON BONJEAN: Thank you very much.

SUMMERS: So just to get us started, what's your reaction to this news that Kevin McCarthy has been ousted as speaker?

BONJEAN: As someone that served as communications director to a Republican speaker of the House, I am really shocked on one hand, and on the other hand, it's rather surprising that he lasted this long considering the current dynamics in the House. It's a time where most Republicans, I think, are also shocked. They would rather see something like this type of leadership change happen at the end of a session, not during the middle. And the group of Republicans that have voted alongside the Democrats to oust him, they don't have a plan moving forward. There isn't a plan. And I think that's what's most concerning of all, is that they did this out of - you know, out of retribution for him going ahead and funding the U.S. government.

SUMMERS: Right. And Ron, what does this tell you about the state of the Republican Party today?

BONJEAN: Right now, the House of - Republicans are in disarray. They are leaderless. They will need to figure this out rather quickly with who their leader is going to be going forward. This is a major stumble in keeping the majority. And they need to refocus and get this back on track quickly. The next Republican speaker would probably benefit by changing the rules on allowing a small group of Republicans to offer a motion to vacate the speakership. And I think that's what did him in is McCarthy agreed to so many concessions that one of those concessions really came up and did him in in the end.

SUMMERS: I mean, I just want to talk about this big picture here for a second. We have not been in a situation like this before. What does this kind of political dysfunction mean for the American people who rely on Congress to get things done?

BONJEAN: Well, I think, you know, it's symbolic of the overall political dysfunction that our nation's occurring at large. I mean, we need a functioning House of Representatives, and we need a functioning government. I think the fact that McCarthy was able to continue the government funding and not having a shutdown says a lot for him, that he actually, you know, can say that he did everything for the right reasons there. But we obviously need to have a speaker of the House elected very quickly to keep things moving...

SUMMERS: Right.

BONJEAN: ...To continue to negotiate with the White House and with the Senate on funding the government and to continue to help solve the problems of millions of Americans who count on their government. That's why they vote in their elected representatives. They do not expect things like this to happen. And I think that that's what the - how shortsighted it was of the small group of Republicans, the fact they didn't have a plan.

SUMMERS: Right.

BONJEAN: They just decided to make a mess of everything. Well, they don't - I don't think they realize the implications of all of it.

SUMMERS: Yeah. Well, let me ask you this. North Carolina Congressman Patrick McHenry, also a Republican, has been named interim speaker. But in your view, is there a member of Congress for the speakership who can actually unite the party right now?

BONJEAN: Well, I was going to say Speaker Pro Tem Patrick McHenry would be an excellent speaker and someone that most Republicans trust. And I would say most meaning probably including those eight who voted against McCarthy. However, they're going to have to come to consensus. There are plenty of Republicans that could do a great job at leading. It's what they just witnessed, which would give many people pause in terms of whether or not they would actually want to do this job, because it's virtually untenable. If you - unless they change the ability...

SUMMERS: OK.

BONJEAN: ...For Republicans to toss out - a small group of Republicans to toss out their leader at a whim, then this is the type of...

SUMMERS: And we'll have to see if that happens. Unfortunately, Ron, we're going to have to leave it there. We've been talking with Republican strategist Ron Bonjean about the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Ron, thank you.

BONJEAN: Thank you. 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.

Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.