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AFF Sentinel-Vol 20#01-Lessons and Learning from House Speaker Fight

Some Members Stand Firm, Shape Rules for House Reform

Steve Dittmer | AFF Sentinel

Colorado Springs, CO

Originally sent to subscribers 01/08/23

The difficulty in electing a speaker of the House had a lot of interpretations and angles from both sides of the aisle.

From the left, it was a symbol of Republican disorganization and philosophical divisions that the Democrats could try to exploit. It was also another reason for them to feel superior, as in spite of the multitude of their causes and splintered numbers, they have proven too intelligent to not coalesce to achieve most of their voting goals.

After a whole raft of votes that failed to gain enough support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, a near shoving-match-that-never-happened between a couple Republicans in the heat of battle was treated, over and over, like a UFC cage match by the mass media. One more, supposed, reason for the left to feel superior and more refined than conservatives.

Of course, as progressive leftists, the Democrats were already worried, having watched determined opposition to spending from conservative Congressmen. What would such holdouts do on the next votes on government spending and the debt ceiling?

By the way, our information is that the CBO has still not scored the omnibus bill, weeks after Congress has passed it.

From the right, there were a lot of Americans rooting for the 20 conservatives -- characterized as “radical” and “right-wing” by the media -- supporting those willing to stand up and demand some changes, some accountability and some common sense on government spending and regulation. We think the whole question of speaker would have been different if the House Republicans had put up a better attempt to stop the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that the countryside regarded as an abomination. Some of the fury in the country at Sen. Mitch McConnell and the Senate likely spilled over to the House speaker fight.

After all, Senate Republicans only needed to muster 41 votes to block the omnibus, as the Democrats had already used up their quota of reconciliation “51-vote” bills. Instead, some 18 Republican senators voted for a big spending atrocity -- much of it hidden, rushed, porky and very partisan -- to further spur inflation, add to our debt burden and reorder spending priorities in mindboggling directions. How could we fathom sending $410 million to Middle Eastern countries to help guard their borders while carefully specifying that no funds could be spent to protect our border? The spending related to border security on our border was only to provide for illegals who had already broken our laws to be here.

Some will view the many agreements that McCarthy made to secure enough votes -- characterized as “concessions” by some -- as weakening his power. They especially point to the agreement that any one House member can call what amounts to a no-confidence vote to remove the speaker. But such a call would have to secure the votes of the House for a majority or more, depending on how the agreement is drawn up.

There seems to be no published version of the stipulations McCarthy agreed to in order to secure votes. But judging by reports, they likely include prohibitions on omnibus bills, more Freedom Caucus members on the Rules Committee, at least 72 hours to consider bills, more single issue bills, larger majorities to increase spending, etc. Much of the items we have heard deal with spending and return to regular order.

Conservatives have pointed out that the power of the speaker, reinforced by the magic to dole out or withhold campaign funding, has grown out of proportion in recent years. As radio financial and political analyst Larry Kudlow pointed out, the list of directions and prohibitions is really a return or boost to the committee structure that the Constitution calls for.

Cattlemen are very accustomed to policy discussions, initiatives and votes coming out of committees of the members, not dictated from on high by the leadership. Congress is supposed to work that way and setting some ground rules for the House speaker is a great way to return to proper governing. Regular order has disappeared so completely from recent Congresses that people forget it is supposed to exist. As we have repeated over and over, there is supposed to be hearings, debate, amendments and committee decisions on 12 different appropriations bills, not a hideous and clandestine monstrosity at the 11th hour that spends literally trillions.

Next time: More thoughts on the Speaker battle.

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