It is painful to watch the spectacle that has unfolded over the past week in the United States Congress.

Facing the prospect of a government shutdown, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives and the third most powerful person in the U.S. government, a week ago made a last-minute reversal, ignored the demands of a sliver of his caucus and pushed forward a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government open, a move that secured well over a majority of votes, but only because of support from Democrats in the chamber.

For that compromise — heresy, say his detractors — McCarthy was voted out as speaker, the first time that has happened in U.S. history. The ability of a small group of rebels to bring the House of Representatives to a halt, and their readiness to do so, is a dangerous development in U.S. politics. Without a speaker, the House cannot conduct any business — and the clock is already counting down to the new deadline by which appropriations bills must be passed so that the entire government can operate. This is no way for the most powerful government in the world to function; U.S. power and credibility are at stake.