It’s early January but I’m already falling behind on my reading. Among the reasons is that I spent much of last week watching the events unfolding on the House floor. It may be a stretch to say there was a winner, but from a political power perspective there was one. It was not Kevin McCarthy and it certainly wasn’t the American people.
The circus opened Tuesday afternoon and didn’t conclude until the early hours of Saturday morning. It took 15 ballots (it hasn’t gone past one in 100 years and hadn’t reach 15 since before the Civil War) for McCarthy to be elected Speaker. The insurgents embarrassed him. They insulted him (keep in mind that racism is one of the three pillars holding up the modern GOP and they voted for a Black man, nominated by arguably their most racist member, on multiple ballots instead of voting for him). They provoked a near physical altercation on the floor. On the assumption that McCarthy honors his concessions, they weakened the office of Speaker to the point it is little more than ceremonial.
While on an organizational chart McCarthy is the leader of the House Republicans and mathematically, they have the majority there is no reason to believe he controls all the votes in his caucus nor a majority of the House votes.
On the big and critical issues, a deal is reached when the President, the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, along with the Speaker and House Minority Leader meet. They are the power players. Let’s look at the current lineup. President Biden can unilaterally promise not to veto a bill. Chuck Schumer can pledge somewhere between 49 and 51 votes. Mitch McConnell can guarantee the vast majority, if not all, of the 49 votes in his caucus. Hakeem Jeffries got all 212 Democratic votes on all 15 ballots and appears to have influence over the vast majority, if not all, of his caucus. McCarthy, on the other hand, seems to have somewhere between 20 and 40 of his caucus members off the reservation at any point in time.
The only way McCarthy can get any legislation of consequence through the House is if Jeffries get him around 20 or 30 votes. In contrast, despite a smaller margin in the Senate, Schumer only occasionally needs one or two from McConnell.
If last week produced a winner, it was Hakeem Jeffries!
Before I close for today, I want to explore history a bit. I took satisfaction that at least McCarthy didn’t win the speakership on the second anniversary of the January 6th insurrection. Am I the only one who saw the irony in that several people who should be in prison for their complicity in the coup attempt were on the House floor voting on the next Speaker? One was actually one of the four tellers. At 12:37am, January 7, 2023 the vote making McCarthy Speaker with 216 votes (218 is the majority in the House if everyone actually votes) was formally declared and at 1:13am he received the gavel.
The House provided political junkies with entertainment last week. I think the show is far from over. McCarthy is Speaker for now but I still think his political career is effectively over. A winner he is not! Jeffries, on the other hand…
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One thought on “And The Winner Is…”
The contrast between Jeffries’ visionary eloquence and McCarthy’s myopic indolence is there in plain sight for all to see.
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