Good Friday Morning! Except to the newly elected Representative from Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District, Andy Ogles. I voted for the guy, and before he’s even taken a single legislative vote, he’s already proven to be an idiot. In fairness, he’s joined 19 other fools in the House Republicans caucus who are bent on kneecapping a slim Republican majority before it takes shape.
Ogles may have the record for the fastest time I’ve ever regretted a vote. Congrats to him on making sure his first act as a Representative was to help Democrats. I can’t imagine a worse start for a Republican Congressman. I’ll get into more of the Kevin McCarthy debacle below, with some thoughts on the various directions this could head. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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[01/02/2023] Welcoming 2023 with more recession signals – Conservative Institute
[01/06/2023] The Do-Nothing Caucus has taken over the Republican Party – Conservative Institute
The Do-Nothing Caucus Takes Over.
Watching the news trickle in of Kevin McCarthy’s failed votes to become Speaker, I had one quote running through my mind. The political writer and satirist P.J. O’Rourke wrote in his book Parliament of Whores: “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.”
House Republicans are doing the best job possible of proving O’Rourke’s point this week. Democrats even brought popcorn to watch the show.
Even if McCarthy can cobble together a coalition to get his Speakership across the threshold, the office itself is irrevocably weaker. It will prove difficult, if not outright impossible, for McCarthy or any Republican to steer the House. That is doubly true if we get some of the concessions these arsonists in the House want.
The Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board has a point when they ask: “Who’s Crazy Enough to Be a Republican Speaker?” They argue that these Republicans don’t want power or the responsibilities that come with it; they’d prefer to be in the minority. The Journal contends (persuasively, I might add):
At this point all of this isn’t so much about Mr. McCarthy as about whether he or anyone else could lead a coherent majority for the next two years. Mr. McCarthy has already conceded that a mere five Members will be able to move to vacate the Chair and put his Speakership in jeopardy. Any small faction could hold him hostage at any time.
If Mr. McCarthy bows out, there are other Republicans who might be able to get 218 votes for Speaker, but why would they want the job? Does Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, want to spend two years listening to ultimatums from Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert? Wisconsin Rep. Michael Gallagher gave a spirited nominating speech for Mr. McCarthy on Wednesday and is widely respected, but he can accomplish much more leading the Select Committee on China that Republicans are setting up.
The problem any GOP leader faces today is that too many Republicans don’t really want to hold and keep political power. They’re much more comfortable in opposition in the minority, which is easier because no hard decisions or compromises are necessary. You can rage against “the swamp” without having to do anything to change it. This is the fundamental and sorry truth behind the Speaker spectacle and the performative GOP politics of recent years.
It’s sorrier still because the country desperately needs an effective check on the excesses of the progressive left that dominates today’s Democratic Party. That’s what voters said when they gave Republicans the House majority, which they seem intent on squandering.
As of press time, for me, McCarthy has failed on an 11th vote late Thursday. The plan is to adjourn until Friday at noon eastern before, potentially, another series of votes. However, absences by Members leading into the weekend may become a concern and delay more votes.
Additionally, the concessions this group is seeking are increasingly beyond the pale. Details are slim, but Politico reports that McCarthy has potentially accepted worse terms than even those laid out by the Journal. They report:
It would, according to two Republicans familiar with the proposal, include a vote on term limits for members, more seats for Freedom Caucus members on the powerful House Rules Committee, and allowing a single member to force a vote on ousting the Speaker. That last item is a particularly steep climbdown for McCarthy — essentially guaranteeing that if he does land the gavel, it’s never fully safe.
Of these options, getting seats on the House Rules Committee makes the most sense as a negotiating tactic. They’re trying to use this moment to get more power, which would get them that. The other two proposals are rank stupidity.
I know I’m in the minority on term limits. I find them self-defeating and anti-Democratic. If you don’t like an incumbent, work to get them out. However, there’s usually a reason most people continue voting for their own Representatives and Senators. Further, term limits encourage more churn and tactics like this to get more power in your limited time. There’s little reason to promote this kind of behavior.
But the most destructive option is allowing a single member to force a vote on ousting the Speaker. That’s just rank insanity that would encourage the worst cranks to keep everything ground to a halt. There’s a reason no company, church, non-profit, or organization allows any employee to demand a vote of no confidence of top leadership at any time. All you’re doing is empowering the malcontents.
There’s no principled stand here, nor anything regarding McCarthy. It’s just stupidity masquerading as “fighting.” Anyone advocating that proposal is neither conservative nor a defender of the American constitution.
Frankly, McCarthy agreeing to that in any form is a concession too far. I’m not a McCarthy defender; he’s easily my least favorite of the options available. But he has a majority of the caucus, and you have to deal with the hand you’re dealt. The people blocking his nomination are doing so because most won’t ever have a serious shot at any leadership post because they’ve burned all their bridges.
Beyond the obvious, what next irks me is that these malcontents have opened the door to either a Democratic Speaker or a Democratic-brokered Speaker of the House. Democrats are voting in lock-step with each other to force Republicans into this corner.
There are two possible ways I see Democrats pursuing this path.
First, a moderate faction of Republicans in purple and blue districts get together and decide to end the standoff. They pitch their support behind a Democrat or some other Republican for Speaker in exchange for ending the staff and plum positions on committees. Ironically, aside from moderate Republicans, it wouldn’t shock me if some of the 20 voting against McCarthy chose this path, either. When you’re a political arsonist, everything wood ready to burn.
The second option is Democrats approach McCarthy and agree to either put him over the line or agree to a compromise Republican candidate. In exchange, Democrats would get a power-sharing agreement with Republicans, including giving up some committee chairs.
Not much will happen over the next two years with Congress so evenly divided. Any power-sharing agreement would provide a temporary salve while both parties prepare for 2024.
Of course, the obvious scenario could happen too: McCarthy bends over so far backward to accommodate enough of this group to get the Speakership. He’d easily be the weakest Speaker in the past 100 years. However, whoever ends up in the position will likely carry that moniker.
The incapacity of the House to form a leadership team on the Republican side brings two direct threats with it. First, it severely hampers the investigations Republicans want to run into Biden, from Hunter Biden through White House policy. If you can’t get a Republican Speaker, these objectives are in danger.
Second, we’re headed into a recession. A Congress that cannot provide any legislative answer will make it harder for the country to recover. The Great Financial Crisis had a burst of legislative, administrative, and executive activity to blunt the worst from happening. It was still a crisis.
Everyone is predicting a mild recession right now. If Congress can’t act, things could worsen simply because we lack a functioning government.
I take Dan McLaughlin’s point at National Review that we’ve had much more raucous Speakership vote contests in our history. But I’d also note he’s reaching back into the 1800s for examples. While Speakership fights are never smooth, even the longest-serving Speaker, Sam Rayburn, had challengers, there was an attempt to consolidate power by the majority party.
This episode is unique in that Republicans are experiencing their own members trying to weaken it as it attempts to retake power. It’s bizarre because it makes no sense at all. The House needs a strong Speaker to drive legislation through and bury lousy legislation from the other side. Every powerful Speaker propelled their party through the sausage-making of legislation. Weak Speakers get little done and are swept aside quickly.
Again, I’m not saying this as a defense of McCarthy. I don’t care for him one way or another and don’t expect him to be particularly good at the job. But Republican infighting has left them with him as the only option. His detractors have not offered one serious counter-option. Everyone they name is meant as a joke or parody of the process.
Stepping on a rake and beating yourself in the face is a dumb strategy unless you’re one of these twenty. They’ve weakened the Republican Party and the House. Their “reforms” will only hurt Republicans – Democrats are sure to reverse them when they take back majority control and grant their Speaker more power.
We know this because similar things have happened with other Republican reforms in the House. The GOP makes it harder on their leadership (getting rid of stuff like earmarks), and then Democrats bring those policies back to run things. If McCarthy gets the job while getting neutered, Democrats will eliminate those roadblocks when they return to power. These aren’t reforms. It’s self-immolation.
It’s a self-defeating exercise by people marching their own party into the firing line. Like O’Rourke said, “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.”
It’s maddening if you’re a conservative. It’s endless entertainment if you’re a Democrat. If your enemy is defeating himself, don’t stop him. And that’s what Democrats are doing. The GOP arsonists are cheering right along with those Democrats.
Links of the week
Remember the hysteria over Trump’s tax returns? – Byron York, Washington Examiner
Amazon Layoffs to Hit Over 18,000 Workers, the Most in Recent Tech Wave: Cuts focused on the company’s corporate staff exceed earlier projection and represent about 5% of the company’s corporate workforce – WSJ
Fed Minutes Show Officials Feared Markets’ Rallies Could Hinder Inflation Fight: Policy makers worried they could have to raise rates more than projected if higher stock, bond prices spur economy – Nick Timiraos, WSJ
I will risk my licence to escape social media re-education: The Ontario College of Psychologists wants to retrain me to behave properly — and this should concern everyone – Jordan Peterson, The National Post
Speaker fight reveals GOP as the party of self-loathing – Rich Lowry, NYPost
From Son and Brother to Leader: Review of ‘Bibi: My Story’ by Benjamin Netanyahu – Seth Mandel, Commentary Magazine
The streaming boom is over: Streaming isn’t going away, but go-go spending is going, going, gone. – Peter Kafka and Rani Molla, Vox
Katie Couric: Barbara Walters Didn’t Take ‘No’ for an Answer – New York Times
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Normally, I’d put Twitter threads here. But I’ve been testing the Chat GBT program this week. It’s an AI program capable of writing, or answering prompts you to give it. It’s astonishing an AI program can do what it does.
Here’s an example. While feeding it some research prompts for some other projects I’m working on, I decided to ask it to write a poem about dumb politicians. Here’s what it delivered with no edits from me:
Dumb politicians, they’re all the same,
No brains, no sense, just a bunch of shame.
They talk and talk, but nothing’s done,
Leaving the country in the burning sun.
They bicker and fight, like children on a playground,
Ignoring the problems that need to be solved,
They are more concerned with their own fame,
Than with the welfare of the country they claim.
They make decisions without regard,
For the people they are supposed to serve,
Their own interests come first,
While the needs of the nation are left to disperse.
So let’s get rid of these dumb politicians,
And find some leaders who know what to do,
Who will put the needs of the people first,
And finally bring about a brighter future, not the worst.
Satire of the week
Prince Harry Shown How To Use Phone After Stating He Wants Father & Brother Back – Waterford Whispers
Thanks for reading!