By ART CHANCE
My days of driving my enemies before me are behind me, but I do still enjoy hearing the lamentations of their bubble-headed bleach blondes and pencil-necked weenies in the presstitute corps. My goodness what an uproar the presstitutes made about the election of a Republican Speaker of the House. It was a ”clown show,” chaos, pandemonium, and of course, their standby, a threat to “our” democracy.
Sorry, I don’t share their “democracy” and what I saw was my democracy, a republican democracy, in action.
One of the little-noted features of Rep. Newt Gingrich’s “Contract With America” congressional reforms was a significant democratization of the workings of the House of Representatives. Gingrich’s reforms gave Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years in 1994 but did not enamor him with the “old boys” of the House, even on the Republican side of the aisle, and he was dogged by controversy and ultimately forced out of leadership in 1998 and out of the House altogether in 1999. Those who have power and position really don’t like anyone disturbing their situation.
Gingrich’s successors lost power to the Democrats and found it easy to go along with Speaker Pelosi’s increasingly dictatorial control of the House. The regular order of the House hasn’t been seen in twenty years. Once upon a time, each department of the federal government sent its budget request to the House, where all appropriations are supposed to originate, and hearings were held first by the cognizant committee for that department and then by the Appropriations Committee.
So-called reconciliation bills were unheard of. Only after full House hearings was an appropriation bill for that department sent to the full House. That hasn’t happened in 20 years.
Appropriation bills are bundled into either continuing resolutions under threat of a government shutdown or bundled into “omnibus” appropriation bills written by leadership, staffers, and lobbyists and thrown on the floor with 24 hours or less notice before a vote on a 4,000-page bill.
What you saw over last weekend was a revolt by 20 brave members of the Republican conference to stop the abuse of power by House leadership. The seemingly anointed Speaker Kevin McCarthy, had pretty good “get along, go along” credentials; he was a pretty solid “old boy” that the House establishment and Mitch McConnell’s Senate could “do business with.” McCarthy’s election as Speaker should have been pro forma. It wasn’t.
McCarthy may have wanted the speakership too much. He had to withdraw himself from consideration in 2015 for lack of a handful of votes. In the recent election he was as many as 21 votes short and made the necessary deals to get himself down to what seemed an insurmountable 4 votes after 14 ballots.
Tempers were short in the House after midnight on a Saturday, not normal working hours for the House, and voices were loud and fisticuffs threatened. Despite the representations of some writers, it didn’t nearly approach the drama of Preston Brooks breaking his cane over Sen. Sumner’s head, but it was far more dramatic than the usual fare in the U.S. House.
Sometime between the 14th and 15th ballots something changed. Some say President Trump intervened, some say McCarthy gave the holdouts what they wanted. McCarthy never actually got the votes of the insurmountable four, but they were somehow induced to vote “present” rather than to name a candidate, which changed the math and allowed McCarthy a majority making him the Speaker on the 15th ballot.
What caused the consternation and rage was that the holdouts were not playing by the rules. In academia, diplomacy, government generally, at least in the West, bargaining is supposed to be based on interests. In the world of interest-based bargaining it would have been in the interest of the holdouts to take some plum committee assignment and give McCarthy their vote.
They didn’t play by the rules; their goals were positional, not interest based. They wanted policies not perks and would not relent unless they got them.
They forced McCarthy to bargain interest, and his interest was becoming Speaker. He gave them the positions they wanted so he could meet his interest of becoming Speaker. He gave them everything they asked for.
Now let’s see if he can lead.
Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon.