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'I think chaos is the operative word,' says Rep. Mark Alford on McCarthy's ousting

Eight Republicans cast the deciding votes to make history and oust Kevin McCarthy from his job as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Republican Mark Alford of Missouri was among the GOP representatives who supported McCarthy. He spoke to NPR's Morning Edition host Leila Fadel about his disappointment in the vote and the chaos on Capitol Hill.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.


Interview highlights

Leila Fadel: As we speak, Congress is basically paralyzed. Are you upset about what happened and how it happened?

Mark Alford: I am.... I think it's a sad day for our conference. It's a sad day for our body. It's a sad day for America. This is not the way it should have been done. But this is a new day. It's time to move forward. Our ship does not have a rudder and we must find that rudder soon.

Fadel: And how do you find that rudder? Is there a plan to get your party out of chaos?

Alford: There is a plan. And I think chaos is the operative word. We must show our body and our nation that we are not dysfunctional, that we do have a plan to move forward with a conservative agenda to help secure America's border, to help reduce spending, to help rebuild our military. The world is watching. I feel like we have shown weakness on the world stage through the executive branch. We do not need to show the same weakness through the legislative branch. And so Tuesday, we will be reconvening here in Washington, D.C. Our conference will be meeting.

Fadel: What do you think makes this something that won't just happen again? One of the criticisms of Speaker McCarthy is that he gave a lot of power to a very small number of members of your party.

Alford: When I was a member elect...I spoke on the floor of our conference in favor of a different rule that would not have included one person to be able to vacate or call for the vacate of the chair. I thought it should be a majority of the majority, 50% plus one, that there was just too much power vested in so few people that could determine the course of history. And I think it put Kevin McCarthy in peril from the very beginning. It was his Achilles heel that ended up costing him the speakership that he gave in on that to get the votes necessary in our slim majority.

You remember back then we thought we would have a red wave. We did not end up with that. And I believe we ended up with a red tide that basically ate up the oxygen out of our body. We have got to change that rule. We cannot do that without 218 votes. Every person now putting their name up for speaker will have to face the same scrutiny, the same pressure, the same leverage by a few number of members.

Fadel: Do you think this very public infighting that happened over the speakership says something to the American people about your party's ability to govern?

Alford: You've heard the phrase before, making sausage. It is not a pretty process. But I would take this process any day over the way that Nancy Pelosi ruled the House. Yes, she got the votes that she needed every time. But we are transparent as a party. We are diverse as a party. We are welcoming of new ideas. And we are going to pick the best leader to move us forward.

Fadel: Will you have this in time to deal with the standoff over another shutdown in 44 days?

Alford: I certainly hope and pray. We are wasting precious time. I do not think we should be going home right now. I'm in my office. We'll see what happens.

This story was edited for radio by Mohamad ElBardicy and edited for digital by Jan Johnson and Treye Green.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Claire Murashima
Claire Murashima is a production assistant on Morning Edition and Up First. Before that, she worked on How I Built This, NPR's Team Atlas and Michigan Radio. She graduated from Calvin University.
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