Governing is not posturing
From the editor
October 4, 2023
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy acted rightly as the mature adult in the room last weekend, taking responsibility for passing a spending bill to fund the United States government.
When you read this, McCarthy has already been voted out of the speaker’s chair by a cabal of extremist right wing Republican representatives, their retribution for McCarthy committing the act of governing.
The Constitution obligates the House of Representatives to initiate budget bills funding the federal government. Voters in 435 districts elect their representatives every two years to participate in legislating for the nation. Each district has about 761,179 residents. Twenty districts contain less than 5% of the country’s population.
Good for the self-titled Freedom Caucus to band together and march in lock step. But those 20 are 10% of the Republican representatives. That group passionately and vociferously speaks for their constituents. But when they fail to win the day, they still need to govern, to get the business of the people and the government done. They do not get to rule. They do not get to wag the dog. They are only deal breakers. They are not deal makers.
Any red-blooded American will accurately assess that this small cadre of extremists – that is way outside of the mainstream of general, common society – are enjoying living out their fantasy that they impose their ideology and force that into legislation. And civic-minded citizens know that House-passed bills go to the Senate. Laws are passed when both the House and Senate approve the same bill and the president signs it.
So, adults in the House chamber shape laws by crafting bills that start with internal party agreement and contain conditions that the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate will negotiate with to find common ground.
When McCarthy gave up Saturday on listening to and supporting fantasies that would not become law, he was not betraying his party. What political party puts partisan ideology above the most fundamental work of paying the nation’s bills?
Now McCarthy, the third official in line to be president, fulfilled his most basic duty: shepherding a budget through passage and sending it to the Senate. That it is barely governing. It is certainly not leading.
McCarthy must have realized that he is part of Congress governing for the nation. His party, with a four-vote margin in the House, does not – and cannot, in the most basic manner – rule over the country.
Mcarthy is no liberal. He is not abandoning the Republican Party. Until last weekend he declined bi-partisanship. Until last weekend he declined that lowest common denominator of governing: being realistic.
The Republican Party in the House of Representatives is neither governing nor ruling. Instead, it lurches from one manufactured crisis to the next. To what real purpose? The list of horrific tragedies our society and world are facing is too terribly long. The one issue of substance Republicans in the House united on was defeating aid to Ukraine. On that, they are on the wrong side of history.
Sunday there were 45 days of federal government funding. The fiscal year starting Oct. 1 ends 365 days later, on Sept. 30, 2024. How many Continuing Resolution dramas will the nation have to endure over the next year? How many times will a manufactured crisis for raising the debt ceiling have to be faced – and faced down?
Now Repubicans in the House of Representatives have to organize themselves, gather together andgo through the process of choosing a new speaker. It took 15 ballots before McCarthy sufficiently groveled to get the job this summer. Are there any appeasers left willing to put their heads in these lions’ jaws?
As a political party, Republican elected officials and movers and shakers are able to accomplish one thing: run for and win re-election. High drama keeps the attention of the basest of their constituents but it is not an act that adults follow with approval or applaud.