(Image via apnews.com)
Staff Writer: Maya Arruda
When was the last time Congress did anything?
To me, as a bystander, it feels that Congress is like a high school classroom full of uppity honors students during a class debate over the pros and cons of Napoleon as a history figure; they keep arguing relentlessly over who is right, unwilling to secede even the slightest bit of ground out of a stubborn refusal to admit they are wrong.
Ultimately, the “debate” devolves into the more accurate term “squabbling,” and nothing is accomplished save the teacher supposedly mediating the “debate,” getting a massive headache and regretting all their life’s decisions.
Put all those know-it-all hormonal children in formal wear and shove them in a fancy government building whose architecture can best be described as “Rome-at-home,” and you have the United States Congress.
Of course, after the second eminent threat of a government shutdown in less than a decade, Congress finally decided to do something. On October 3rd, 2023, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy was voted out of his position in a 216:210 vote.
Not only did every Democrat present in session that day vote him out, but McCarthy got metaphorically stabbed in the back by his party; eight Republican representatives swung the vote in favor of kicking McCarthy to the curb because of McCarthy’s alleged side deal with President Biden to stop the government shutdown.
McCarthy was the first House Speaker to be removed by a vote of No Confidence in United States History.
They say no good deed goes unpunished, and this bitter bipartisan Us vs. Them mentality rife within modern American politics ensured that McCarthy was justly punished for trying to do his job.
This whole debacle reminded me of Chancellor Valorum’s vote of No Confidence. I wouldn’t be surprised to see George Lucas with a camera crew in the background.
Since it is the Speaker’s responsibility to appoint the Speaker Pro Tempore (a fancy Latin phrase for temporary replacement), according to current House procedure, McCarthy ended up selecting North Carolina Representative Patrick McHenry as a replacement via a list of candidate names submitted at the beginning of McCarthy’s term as Speaker.
Despite rumors that McCarthy tried to elect himself Speaker Pro Tempore, McHenry was the candidate McCarthy appointed as the replacement. McCarthy announced he was done with trying to be the Speaker a few hours after getting exposed.
To be fair, if the people supposed to be in my camp threw me to the wolves, I wouldn’t want to lead them again, either. Honestly, this was a surprisingly mature move for a politician, so I was way more inclined to believe the rumors that the man threw a hissy fit and tried to make himself his replacement in sheer spite.
This is one of the times I am happy to be proven wrong.
However, the Speaker of the House debacle does not end with McCarthy. No siree, the saga continues just like the neverending Disney Star Wars franchise.
Being the speaker sucks. I expected it to be way more headaches than worth it (see: teacher mediating children arguing analogy above). Still, the siren’s call for power makes the Speaker’s position super enticing to politicians until they get there and are forced to realize power doesn’t make all the Ibuprofen needed just to get through one meeting worth it.
Just think of all the adult-shaped children trying to make demands of you like entitled teenagers. Terrifying.
This is why McHenry, still Speaker Pro Tempore, threatened to quit if Republicans kept trying to pressure him to move legislature to the floor, which is beyond the scope of power of Speaker Pro Tempore. Good on McHenry for not giving in to peer pressure.
McHenry’s response to his party about pushing legislature without the full Speaker powers has genuinely raised interest in giving full capabilities to the temp., meaning that a Speaker would no longer be a necessary position in Congress. McHenry viewed his idea of getting full Speaker powers as “unconstitutional.” If they gave him full capabilities, McHenry would just quit on the spot.
With their temporary substitute teacher – I mean, Speaker – an inch away from throwing the book at them, you’d think that the Republicans would be in their last few phases of getting quality Speaker candidates and ready to begin the voting process. Indeed, Republicans have gotten their proverbial shit together to fix the issue plaguing Congress and do something.
You would think they’d be able to find one person to serve as speaker for now, after nearly a month, wouldn’t you?
Sure, they’ve had a few prominent candidates – namely Ohio Representative Jim Jordan and Louisiana Representative Steve Scalise; however, neither candidate could get sufficient Republican support to make a quick and successful bid for Speaker.
Scalise took his name from the metaphorical hat because of this lack of support a week after McCarthy went the way of Valoram. Jordan’s name was taken out of the running by his party after he lost his third vote for party majority support last Friday.
After Scalise and Jordan were deemed “belongs in the trash” rather than “bold and brash” by the Republican party, the Republican Representatives in the House (which sounds like a bad bootleg of Cory in the House now that I think about it) have made a formal pledge to support whichever upcoming candidate wins the secret Republican ballot election scheduled October 24th.
Ironically, Republicans are divided on agreeing to this pledge to achieve unity, so I doubt it will work. A for effort, though.
Minnesota Representative Tom Emmer is in the lead for Speaker as of October 20th, when he put his name in the hat over Twitter. Oklahoma Representative Kevin Hern and Michigan Representative Jack Bergman are also entering their bids for Speaker-hood.
Until the House of Representatives gets an actual Speaker and not a Speaker’s understudy, they have no choice but to continue their time-honored tradition of doing nothing.
But, considering how the Republican Representatives are of two hundred different minds on the matter, I doubt any of these upcoming candidates will ascend to Speaker-dom until at least mid-2024.