January 9, 2023

Kevin McCarthy

Republican Kevin McCarthy was elected House speaker on a historic post-midnight 15th ballot early Saturday, overcoming holdouts from his own ranks and floor tensions that boiled over… After four days of grueling ballots, McCarthy flipped more than a dozen conservative holdouts to become supporters, including the chairman of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus.” AP News

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From the Left

The left is concerned that GOP hard-liners will have the power to block necessary legislation.

“The chaos on the floor over the past week shows House Republicans aren’t ready to govern and casts alarming doubt on whether Congress is capable of raising the debt ceiling to avoid a U.S. government default in coming months… Unless Mr. McCarthy is willing to rely on Democratic votes when the good of the country depends on it, we fear the House is going to be a scary place for the next two years…

“One way out lies not with Mr. McCarthy but with individual members who get fed up with dysfunction. They can use more discharge petitions to force votes on bills that stand to attract majority support — if they could get onto the floor. With such a closely divided House, a handful of moderate Republicans could work with Democrats to circumvent the Rules Committee and GOP leadership to bring bipartisan measures to the floor.”

Editorial Board, Washington Post

“In campaigning for the 2022 midterm elections, the G.O.P. rode a wave of extremism, saying little about the politics of hate and denial practiced by some of its candidates in an effort to capture votes. The party is now paying a price for its silence. Its members are grappling with the reality of working with people who loudly and proudly challenge political institutions and the democratic process…

“In effect, we’re witnessing the rupture of the Republican Party, the ultimate outcome of Republicans’ continuing failure to stand up to the extremism in their ranks… It’s encouraging to think that there are moderate Republicans who don’t support this brand of politics. There are certainly many. But until they organize themselves and oppose their in-house opposition, they’re pushing the nation ever closer to a dangerous edge.”

Joanne B. Freeman, New York Times

Some argue, “Democratic socialists fight for universal health care, an end to the climate catastrophe and mass incarceration, and economic democracy. But if we’re going to triumph over the forces of reaction and win these changes and more, we’re going to need to learn to fight harder and smarter… In the last week, the Republican right fought Kevin McCarthy’s bid to become Speaker of the House and showed everyone how to play political hardball to build power

“As the minority in Democratic caucuses in DC and in state legislatures like New York, the Left needs to think creatively about how to best strengthen our position. The Right showed the way here. Not in the demands it made — most of those are specific to its own agenda of taking an ax to the federal government — but in how it made them. To achieve very different ends, we should be prepared to go to war against Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries, and others who otherwise have no sympathy for or interest in advancing our agenda.”

Neal Meyer, Jacobin

From the Right

The right supports reforms that reduce the speaker’s power, but worries that GOP divisions will inhibit the party’s ability to enact its agenda.

The right supports reforms that reduce the speaker’s power, but worries that GOP divisions will inhibit the party’s ability to enact its agenda.

“[Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi] tolerated little public debate or dissent. She thrilled her base with such infamous performative acts as tearing up a State of the Union Address of then-President Trump. As an all-powerful speaker, she oversaw a series of party-line votes with little opportunity for amendments or even to read some bills. Many Republicans did not want the Pelosi model of an all-powerful speaker. For these members, the agreement with McCarthy is a type of Magna Carta…

“I have worked in the House in various roles since I was a House leadership page in the 1970s and, much later, represented the House in litigation. I’ve watched the body become less transparent, less deliberative, with every passing year… Today’s legislative system is a mockery of the deliberative process, characterized by runaway spending, blind voting and perfunctory debates. You can dislike or denounce the holdouts while still admitting they have a point — Congress has got to change.”

Jonathan Turley, The Hill

“The House now will supposedly vote on all twelve individual appropriations bills and require 72 hours for members to review bills, provisions aimed at ending the horror-show ‘omnibus’ spending bills routinely presented as ‘must pass’ legislation hard against some deadline or holiday. McCarthy also agreed that fiscal year 2024 domestic discretionary spending won’t be higher than it was in fiscal year 2022…

“Chip Roy pushed for many of these changes and has a compelling vision for how a House should work with more power for the rank-and-file, all toward his goal of reducing federal spending. He played a commendable role in the speaker fight over the last week and, importantly, was willing to take ‘yes’ for an answer.”

The Editors, National Review

“Unfortunately, the divisions displayed this week make it look pretty unlikely the tiny Republican majority will be able to pull off most of the goals that the holdouts and the regulars agree on… It’s not remotely clear that 218 (of just 222) House Republicans can agree on any given spending bill: The hard-liners want major cuts, immediately; at least a few moderates won’t go along…

“Maybe McCarthy and his leadership team can scrape up a few Democratic votes for a budget that keeps spending growth nearly flat, though the new rules guarantee that’ll be a huge slog rife with challenges that force votes on ousting the speaker. Some see the need to raise the federal debt ceiling as a prime opportunity to force some fiscal discipline. Maybe so, but that’ll still require GOP unity on some less-than-ideal proposal — because if the standoff goes on too long, ‘soft’ Republicans will break and force some deal that protects their interests.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

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