Of all the possibilities, the current frontrunner for Republican Speaker of the House is Ohio’s flamethrower, Jim Jordan, who may be the second most likely person to assure that nothing useful or necessary is accomplished after show pony Matt Gaetz. Jordan has Trump’s “Complete and Total Endorsement,” except if they make Trump speaker. What could possibly go wrong?
In an op-ed in the Washington Post, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries saw his opportunity and took it.
Over the past several weeks, when it appeared likely that a motion to vacate the office of speaker was forthcoming, House Democrats repeatedly raised the issue of entering into a bipartisan governing coalition with our Republican counterparts, publicly as well as privately.
It was my sincere hope that House Democrats and more traditional Republicans would be able to reach an enlightened arrangement to end the chaos in the House, allowing us to work together to make life better for everyday Americans while protecting national security.
Granted, this is completely disingenuous on Jeffries’ part, but no more disingenuous than those blaming the Dems for not bailing out Kevin McCarthy lest the adage prove true.
The alternative to bad isn’t necessarily good. It can always get worse.
And Jim Jordan is certainly worse. Sure, McCarthy had some struggles keeping promises. Sure, in the hours before the vote to vacate, McCarthy told Jeffries to bite the big one. Most importantly, the Republicans held a majority, albeit slim and more of a coalition between the MAGA insurgents and once-saner Republicans who were too cowardly to call out their sides nutjobs. Why, oh why, would they give away control, not matter how fraught it was with loonies, to the Dems?
Regrettably, at every turn, House Republicans have categorically rejected making changes to the rules designed to accomplish two objectives: encourage bipartisan governance and undermine the ability of extremists to hold Congress hostage. Indeed, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) publicly declared more than five hours before the motion to vacate was brought up for a vote that he would not work with House Democrats as a bipartisan coalition partner. That declaration mirrored the posture taken by House Republicans in the weeks leading up to the motion-to-vacate vote. It also ended the possibility of changing the House rules to facilitate a bipartisan governance structure.
To be fair, the less crazy Republicans were caught between a rock and Jeffries. If they broke ranks with their conference, they would be excoriated as RINOs who sold out to the commies like Liz Cheney. They would get primaried, lose and have to work for a living. That would never do.
But now they have to face the reality of their current circumstances, that without the votes of a handful of MAGA sycophants, of which Jordan and Gaetz are proud members, the Republicans have no majority. Remember, the midterms turned from a red wave into a disaster for the Republicans of Trumpian proportions. That means they either have to convince the crazies not to be crazy, as Nancy Pelosi did with her Squad, or they own the conference.
Or the less-insane Republicans who want to keep the nation afloat, support Ukraine and not go to war with Mexico over drugs and immigrants, need to create a majority with a little help from their friends on the other side of the aisle.
Sure, the Democrats could do it not for a quid pro quo, but for the sake of the nation. Or they could do so to prove they are the party that wishes to govern rather than burn it all down. Or they could do so because they embody the virtues they market to their voters when they claim to hold the high ground rather than just be slightly better than the Republicans and Trump. But will they?
The details would be subject to negotiation, though the principles are no secret: The House should be restructured to promote governance by consensus and facilitate up-or-down votes on bills that have strong bipartisan support. Under the current procedural landscape, a small handful of extreme members on the Rules Committee or in the House Republican conference can prevent common-sense legislation from ever seeing the light of day. That must change — perhaps in a manner consistent with bipartisan recommendations from the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.
So . . . nah. It’s hard to blame Jeffries and the Democrats for taking advantage of their position as the alternative to the MAGA insurgents. McCarthy was neither kind nor generous as speaker. Graciousness toward the loyal opposition has not been the Republican way in quite a while. And wielding clout wisely is pretty much the minority leader’s job. Why buy the votes if they give away the milk for free?
In short, the rules of the House should reflect the inescapable reality that Republicans are reliant on Democratic support to do the basic work of governing. A small band of extremists should not be capable of obstructing that cooperation.
This leaves the less-nutty Republicans with a choice, be obstructed by “a small band of extremists” or be obstructed by the Democrats. But the balance of the Republicans, aside from the ironically-named Freedom Caucus, isn’t without cards of its own to play. In a few weeks, the can kicked to keep the government from shutting down will need either resolution or at least another kick. The Democrats don’t want to see a government shut down. Does Jim Jordan give a damn? Does Matt Gaetz? Donald Trump certainly doesn’t, as nothing would please him more than the courts closing for lack of funds.
House Democrats remain committed to a bipartisan path forward, as we have repeatedly demonstrated throughout this Congress by providing a majority of the votes to prevent a government shutdown this month and avoid a catastrophic default on America’s debt in June.
The majority of the less-MAGA Republicans can take this opportunity to put an end to the charade that this chaos will magically resolve on its own. They are now a minority party in the House and without either acquiescing to the insurgents or finding a way to work with the Democrats, will be left without options. And Jeffries is “committed,” provided they pay the price.