Washington’s broken house
By Emily Rosenberg
From Jan. 3-7 the United States House of Representatives was called to session and began the 118th Congress by taking three days to elect a Speaker of the House.
In what typically takes one round of voting, it took the people’s chamber 15 ballots to finally elect U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) to the position.
According to The Boston Globe, this was the first time in 100 years that it took more than one ballot to elect a Speaker of the House, and the first time since 1855, the antebellum period, that it took more than nine ballots.
It was embarrassing to watch Republicans and Democrats regurgitate different versions of their nomination speeches ballot after ballot as if they were trying to pass a plagiarism test using thesaurus words.
Headlines in national newspapers expressed the division in the Republican majority by stating how McCarthy again failed to secure the majority due to far-right Freedom Caucus members voting for other nominees. Such nominees stretched across the board proving they would rather have literally any other MAGA crazy over McCarthy, from caucus leader Jim Jordan, to Freedom Caucus member Kevin Hern, to former President Donald Trump.
However what most of these headlines failed to express is that it was not only Kevin McCarthy’s mission to secure the votes for Speaker. It was not only the Republicans’ job to elect a Speaker. It was the 435 representatives’ job to elect a Speaker.
Democrats could have ended the stalemate on the first or second day by negotiating a deal with moderate Republicans in a bipartisan act they claim they are very open to participating in.
Instead, they happily let the clown show persist, and in the meantime, McCarthy jeopardized the House of Representatives by offering far-right holdouts a generous number of concessions.
In one of these concessions, McCarthy promised far-right Freedom Caucus members seats on the Rules Committee in order to secure their votes. The Rules Committee determines how the legislature operates and which bills come to a vote on the floor.
The U.S. House of Representatives will now be controlled by MAGA extremists.
McCarthy also gave any representative - Democrat or Republican - the power to disrupt congress via offering the “motion to vacate,” which would allow the House to vote McCarthy out of the Speaker position while in session, according to NBC.
The 15-round vote for the Speaker could become as regular as approving minutes.
Though it could be argued it was McCarthy’s job to negotiate with Democrats and offer them concessions, if Democrats took their job seriously and truly cared about beginning Congress, electing a Speaker, and preventing the far-right from controlling Congress, then they could have worked out a plan as well.
In any case where Democrats cared more about the people than their reputations and their party, they would have publicly recognized their nominee did not have the votes and did everything in their power to help elect the second-best option.
However, to the United States people, a crumbling Republican party who can’t even clean up their act on the first day is a reminder to vote Democrat in 2024. Therefore, instead of ending the stalemate, they’d rather let their colleagues across the aisle get in physical altercations.
Democrats do not care about getting down to business - they care about gaining power and raising public approval.
If this Speaker election foreshadows how this Congress will go, and Democrats care about their constituents, they need to be more willing in the future to work on a bipartisan level with moderate Republicans to prevent the far-right from wielding any power they have through the concessions that were offered to them.
For the next two years, Democrats need to focus on lessening the influence of far-right Republicans by using their slim minority to negotiate bipartisan deals that make impacts on the greater half of Congress and thus the people, rather than focusing their energy toward protecting their reputation.
Because as Democratic Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) said in his speech to the House, Democrats believe in “democracy, not demagogues.”