A House Divided
Updated: Jan 9
Whew! If you turned on the news at all this past week, you probably wondered what the heck was going on with the Speaker of the House election.
Was it much ado about nothing? Were politicians simply grandstanding for media air time? Did anything of substance really happen? Aren't we now just back to business/politics as usual?
The answers to these questions are NO, NO, YES, and NO.
What happened this week matters--to all Americans.
As the 118th United States Congress convened on January 3, 2023, the first order of business was to elect a new Speaker of the House. Usually, the majority party has their speaker pre-qualified and pre-determined even before Congress convenes; and a cursory floor vote is all that is required to attain the gavel. The Speaker of the House of Representatives is not only constitutionally second in the line of succession for the presidency (following the Vice President), but is also the parliamentary and political leader of the House and the de facto leader of the majority party.
[I was actually surprised a few months ago to learn that there is no constitutional requirement for the Speaker of the House to be an incumbent member of the House of Representatives. If you happened to hear Matt Gaetz (R-FL) nominate Donald J. Trump to be Speaker, it wasn't a joke; and it caused more than a few liberal heads to explode at the prospect of it!]
However, in this new Congress, twenty conservative Republicans formed a bloc and refused to vote for "sure thing" Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
To understand why they took this stance and what was at stake, here is Chip Roy, (R-TX) on January 3rd--the very first day Congress convened--outlining what the members of the Freedom Caucus (the so-called "holdouts") were trying to achieve:
If, from the start, Kevin McCarthy had been willing in good faith to negotiate solutions to the problems and issues being pointed out by the "holdout" representatives, he would have been elected Speaker on the first ballot.
But this was not to be.
Over four days, and 14 ballots, Kevin McCarthy STILL hadn't secured enough votes to attain the gavel. And, if you listened to left-wing corporate media outlets, it sounded like it was the end of the world. The talking heads all acted like their hair was on fire and reported that the Republicans were "dysfunctional" and that they were "embarrassing themselves in front of the world."
Geesh--even quasi-conservative network pundits on Fox News called the Republicans "insurrectionists" and "saboteurs."
Here is Sean Hannity going off the rails with Lauren Boebert, (R-CO):
But let's take a breath, step back from the hype, and examine why this whole process was a GOOD thing for conservatives...and for our country.
First, let's look at history. Voting for a Speaker of the House happens any time a party takes over the majority in the House of Representatives. In this Congress, it took fifteen floor votes for the Republicans to elect Kevin McCarthy. But this is certainly not unheard of, despite what the media would have you believe. Here is a graphic showing how many times multiple balloting rounds were held for the election of House Speaker (check out 1855!):
So, what did the twenty "holdouts" want in order to feel comfortable voting for McCarthy?
Most importantly, they wanted a change from the status quo. Kevin McCarthy is not universally loved by his fellow Republican colleagues. Many consider him a RINO (Republican In Name Only). He has a reputation for saying one thing in public about conservatives, while saying another thing behind closed doors. The holdouts believed that, if certain issues were not debated and resolved PRIOR to McCarthy becoming Speaker, it would just be the same "politics as usual." According to Conservative Review, Kevin McCarthy has a Liberty Score of "F".
Beyond the holdouts' dislike of McCarthy's politics, they wanted to "give the power back to the American people" and "fix a broken Congress." In order to return that power to the people, they felt they needed to strip some of the power from the Speaker position that the previous Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, had claimed and consolidated during her reign.
It took a little digging to understand exactly what the holdouts wanted to fix, and what "power" should be returned to the people.
First, I did some research to understand how the House of Representatives functions today as a legislative body. We all can maybe remember bits and pieces from our high school civics classes. And I always liked this School House Rock video from the 70's, 80's and 90's called, "I'm Just a Bill":
But, it turns out that it's no longer as simple as that. In today's Congress, you just can't propose a bill and have it come to the floor for debate. No, the Speaker has become incredibly powerful and controls every aspect of House legislation.
Here's Glenn Beck explaining how it works in the current environment and what this fight is all about:
To reiterate Glenn Beck's point in the above video, let's use the recently-passed $1.7 trillion omnibus bill as an example. It was a spending monstrosity that was stuffed with pork and giveaways and even contained language that PREVENTED funds being used to secure our own border. And, as you may recall, there was no floor debate. There was no time for the Representatives to even read the 4,000+ page bill. The Democrat leadership, spearheaded by Speaker Pelosi, rushed the bill to the floor for a vote under the threat of "time running out to avoid a government shut down." Maybe you can recall the 2009 "Obamacare" bill when Nancy Pelosi famously said, "We have to pass the bill so you can find out what's in it."
Well, the twenty "recalcitrant" holdout Republicans were fighting to keep that exact sort of thing from happening again by stripping some of the procedural power away from the Speaker.
And they DID succeed in making progress toward their objectives.
Here's a statement from Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) describing the victories achieved:
After all is now said and done, I believe these Republicans are patriots and heroes, not the "Taliban," "terrorists," and "insurrectionists" that they've been called. It is through their strength and courage to stand their ground against pressure from corporate media and their own colleagues that they were able to negotiate and obtain written promises that will put power back in the hands of the people and out of the grips of the establishment politicians.
This is a victory for all of us.
Here's a brief consolidated summary highlighting some of the concessions that were gained from the negotiations:
Jeffersonian Motion to vacate the Chair (allowing a single person to make the motion to remove the Speaker if he goes back on his word or policy agenda);
A select committee to look into the weaponization of the DOJ against the American people;
Vote on term limits;
Single subject bills (can't be loaded with irrelevant nonsense);
Vote on border security;
A budget that stops an increase in the debt ceiling and holds Senate accountable;
Ending Covid mandates and funding;
72 hours to read a bill;
Freedom Caucus members on the Rules Committee.
Here's a complete copy of the Rules Package that was negotiated by the Republican holdouts.
I also know that this is a victory for conservatives because Democrats are scared.
This tweet from Adam Schiff (D-CA) says it all:
I would rather have a Speaker who is hated by the progressives than one who is on their side.
Unfortunately, the battle isn't quite over. The Rules package has to be voted on by the entire House. Obviously, every single Democrat will vote against it; so the Republicans need to stick together. There isn't much room for error.
I guess we'll just have to wait and see if it's back to politics as usual, or if this progress holds.
I'm praying for the latter.
“For the sake of democracy, vigorous, civilized debate must replace the law of silence that political correctness has imposed.”
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