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GOP leader McCarthy spoke for more than 8 hours to delay passage of spending bill

It's a tradition in the House that leaders from both parties, granted a minute to speak on a matter by the presiding officer, can take up a few more.

For House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the so-called magic moment lasted quite a bit more: 8 hours and 32 minutes, to be exact.

McCarthy rose at 8:38 p.m. ET Thursday to speak in opposition to the Democrats' Build Back Better Act, a $1.75 trillion package of social and climate change programs. He concluded his remarks at 5:10 a.m. Friday.

The oratorical marathon broke the old record set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., when she was minority leader in 2018.

Over the course of his remarks, McCarthy touched on several issues, many of them having no — or at best a tenuous — connection to the legislation on the floor.

He denounced inflation and the cost of a Thanksgiving dinner this year.

He denounced the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the deaths of 13 U.S. service members.

He spoke of how he opened a deli in his youth, his desire to own a Tesla (but inability to afford one) and a wish he'd been at Tiananmen Square and "knocking down the Berlin Wall."

And he attacked Pelosi, accusing her of "burning down this House on her way out the door," an apparent reference to the fact that Republicans are expected to win back the House next November.

For Democrats, the magic of McCarthy's moment quickly wore off. Many chatted and audibly taunted McCarthy during his speech. Pelosi's office tweeted "Is Kevin McCarthy OK?" — a sign of the fraught relationship between the two leaders.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., tweeted: "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."

The speech and Democrats' reaction to it crystalized the deteriorated relationship between the two parties in the House. Ties, already frayed during the Trump years, got worse at the start of the year with an attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. This week, it saw the censure of Republican Paul Gosar for tweeting a video that portrayed him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and attacking President Biden.

McCarthy defended Trump and Gosar as he hopes to build support to become speaker in the next Congress should Republicans win control of the House next November.

In the end, McCarthy's unofficial filibuster (a custom reserved for the Senate) served only to delay the inevitable as the House returned to voteon the Build Back Better legislation Friday morning.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NPR News' Brian Naylor is a correspondent on the Washington Desk. In this role, he covers politics and federal agencies.