Rep. Kevin McCarthy has endured long nights in the nation's capital before, but none like this.
The Bakersfield Republican apparently set a new record — and annoyed Democrats — by speaking nonstop for more than 8½ hours Thursday night and Friday morning in opposition to the "Build Back Better" bill central to President Biden's legislative agenda.
The bill passed anyway, but not before McCarthy tore down Democratic spending priorities one by one. By the time he wrapped up shortly after 5 a.m. Friday, having taken a few tangents and occasionally squabbling with restive Democrats, the House minority leader had broken House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's 2018 likely record for the chamber's longest filibuster by a margin of about half an hour.
Even if not many people stayed awake long enough to hear the whole thing, McCarthy's speech drew a great deal of attention, positive and negative, including in Kern. McCarthy and his supporters called it an effective platform for explaining the bill to the party, while Democrats termed it a tedious political stunt.
Bakersfield Republican strategist Cathy Abernathy, who reported having listened to most of McCarthy's speech, said it made important points about the risks of expanding government and debt.
She said McCarthy used the full length of time to explain the bill's ramifications. He succeeded, she added, in the sense that his stamina drew notice.
"Now people are paying attention to what did he say. That's beautiful," Abernathy said. "That's what we need. Too much goes on behind closed doors in Washington."
McCarthy's declared challenger in next year's midterm elections, former Bakersfield homeless center executive Louis Gill, said in a written statement the House minority leader had shown his "true colors" by trying to stop government from serving the people.
“For eight hours, (McCarthy) stood between his constituents and the American dream," Gill wrote. "He flailed and failed to do his job."
Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford, after early this year voting contrary to McCarthy on some prominent matters, sided with the Republican majority in Friday morning's vote on the social spending and climate change bill.
Valadao said in a written statement the country must not continue spending as heavily as it has. He warned of consequences in the form of higher rates of inflation and crippling long-term debt.
"The cost of this legislation will ultimately be paid for by hardworking, middle-class families already struggling amid a global pandemic," Valadao stated.
Robin Walters, president of one of Kern's largest Democratic clubs, the Democratic Women of Kern, didn't catch much of McCarthy's speech but said Friday she didn't think it served any useful purpose.
To her it looked like a politician trying to reach higher office, in this case McCarthy attempting to lead Republicans to victory in the midterms, so he can become speaker of the House.
She noted the legislation would invest in water infrastructure and other projects of help to Central Valley families.
"That's what's really disturbing," she said, "that he is not representing the people of this valley and he is only representing McCarthy."
Kern County Republican Central Committee Chairman Ken Weir said by email taxpayers learned more in one hour of McCarthy’s remarks on the House floor "than in days, weeks and months of jargon from the president on his so-called 'Build Back Better' plan."
"This massive plan to grow government with trillion dollar spending taken from hardworking Americans needed to be exposed and thank goodness Kevin gave it his all!" Weir wrote.
McCarthy said in an emailed statement Friday the House GOP had at least succeeded in delaying the vote for a day.
"I did the best I could, for as long as I could, to explain to the American people how this bill would hurt our country in nearly every way imaginable," he stated, adding that the focus now will be on keeping the bill from becoming law.