It Ain’t Gettin’ Better

Dateline: The late morning of Wednesday January 4, 2023. Yesterday the 118th House of Representatives arguably went into session. Republican “control” is already proving chaotic!

As the members-elect filed into the chamber the magnetometers had been removed. The first act of Republican “control” was to make everyone less safe. Hey, it’s not like anyone has ever violently attacked the chamber. Opps, I guess I forgot about that little incident on January 6, 2021.

The first order of business was election of a speaker. The last time this was much other than pro-forma was in 1923, 100 years ago. Well, the circus is back in town and they went about proving it not once, not twice, but three times.

Elise Stefanik nominated Kevin McCarthy. On the Democratic side Pete Aguilar nominated Hakeem Jeffries. Then Paul Gosar rose to nominated Andy Biggs. The vote ended with nobody reaching the required majority of those present and voting (an absence or “present” vote doesn’t count toward that total) at Jeffries 212, McCarthy 203 and others at 19 (ten of which where cast for Biggs).

In round two Jim Jordan nominated McCarthy, Aguilar nominated Jeffries and Matt Gaetz nominated the same Jim Jordan who had nominated and pledged to vote McCarthy (which he ultimately did). The result was the same except that the 19 votes were now all for Jordan.

To me the smart political play was for the insurgents on the GOP side to deny McCarthy the speakership on the first vote, sending a powerful message and then to fall in line (like the myth says Republicans do) and vote for him on the second go around.

A third round was held. This time Steve Scalise (who is rumored to be a down-the-line “compromise” candidate) nominated McCarthy, Aguilar nominated Jeffries for a third time and Chip Roy nominated Jordan again. The vote was almost identical at 212-202-20 with Jordan again not voting for himself. Jordan is one of the nutcases and twice didn’t vote for himself. Do you think the insurgents are getting the message?

They call the roll alphabetically and while it means nothing, I found it interesting that McCarthy never made it out of the Cs.

Many years ago, I paid a courtesy call on a newspaper publisher introducing myself as the newly elected local county Democratic Party Chair. He “congratulated” me with the “condolence” that my job was like herding cats. Please note that all 212 Democrats stuck with their leader in all three rounds. This could be mathematically as well as visually significant. Should the Republicans enter into a strategy of reducing the “magic” number in order to make McCarthy the winner if their efforts are not sufficiently coordinated, they could actually let Jeffries slip in. To date he has had the plurality in each round.

It was only a move of one vote but I find it significant that McCarthy’s total actually slipped in round three. Is that the beginning of a perception (which I, for the most part, share) that you can stick a fork in his candidacy? (Couldn’t resist the baseball metaphor.)

Unless the rules of the House are changed, the chamber can’t even swear in members-elect (and they all are at this point), let alone pass legislation until a speaker is selected. Who the eventual speaker will be is unclear at this writing. As an aside: I wish I had not softened in my position that McCarthy would never be the speaker, but that is not a done deal as of this writing. My best guess is that a Republican other than McCarthy will emerge.

The GOP is paying the price for embracing the Tea Party in the aftermath of the 2008 election. The log they reached out for turned out to be an alligator and that gator bites. Today they go by the names of MAGA and Freedom Caucus but it is basically the same group of radicals who are impossible to negotiate with. They really don’t have an agenda and mostly just want to burn it down.

The House Republicans are looking like a chaos caucus and I expect that Tuesday was a portent of what is to come: absolutely zero positive accomplishments.

Whether or when he will resign, I won’t hazard to predict but McCarthy’s political career effectively ended Tuesday afternoon. While I continue to think he is evil, my political respect for Mitch McConnell endures. Trump is gone, McCarthy should and possibly will soon follow but Mitch, despite a poor 2022 showing, is still the leader of his caucus. Unlike McCarthy he easily crushed a challenge.

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