Former National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice said the Republican Party now has a powerful “anarchist element” at a Harvard Institute of Politics forum Wednesday.
The discussion with former Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick ’78 was held just one day after eight far-right House Republicans voted with Democrats to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from his position as speaker of the House — the highest legislative position in Congress.
Rice said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and his allies had become “powerful enough to shut down the United States House of Representatives.”
McCarthy’s removal as speaker has effectively frozen the House until a replacement can be selected, a process that will not formally begin until next week — and that has sparked jockeying among McCarthy’s deputies and other prominent House Republicans.
The process could significantly delay ongoing legislative priorities, including the passage of a spending bill to avert a government shutdown ahead of Nov. 17. McCarthy’s own election as speaker required 15 rounds of votes, with deliberations stretching across four days.
In stark contrast to the current state of chaos in the House, Rice praised the leadership of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during the first half of the Biden presidency, including the successful passage of the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act.
“We had a four-seat majority max in the House with Speaker Pelosi. And yet, we were able to do many important things on a bipartisan basis,” Rice said.
Having served in both the Obama and Biden administrations in foreign and domestic policy leadership positions, Rice stepped down from her role as domestic policy advisor in April. She is currently a visiting fellow at the IOP for the fall semester.
Rice discussed political polarization, working in the Biden administration, and her future political ambitions at Wednesday’s event.
She said the turmoil gripping the House is the result of broader polarization coming to bear.
“We’re now up against another risk of shutdown in less than 45 days,” Rice said. “But we also have an element of a major political party that, by their own words, are prepared to contemplate the use of force to get their way, are prepared to jettison the Constitution.”
“We’re in a precarious place,” she added.
Rice also suggested a series of structural changes that she said might improve the state of American government — namely ranked choice voting for elections and compulsory national service.
She said that national service — both military and otherwise — would create more trust and understanding between citizens.
Rice has long been the subject of political speculation despite having never served in elected office. She was on President Joe Biden’s short list of potential vice presidential candidates and in 2018, the New York Times reported that Rice has indicated interest in running against Sen. Susan Collins (D-Maine).
When Patrick pressed Rice on her political aspirations, Rice replied, “What am I supposed to do? I’m from the District of Columbia.”
Rice did not definitively rule out a future run.