by Renee Parsons
In what has been the most dramatic election for Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in a hundred years, final culmination came on the fifteenth ballot with the election of Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
The election however did not come without McCarthy’s historic commitment to a heroic band of 20 opponents who negotiated substantial policy initiatives as well as procedural rule changes that will transform the role of the Speaker from a dictatorial empire-builder, and with it, make the House of Representatives into a more self-governing representative body.
In a series of ground-breaking agreements, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) who emerged as one of the final six still standing, explained that McCarthy opponents had “delivered a massive victory for the American people by fundamentally changing the way Congress will operate.” Boebert cited the way bills will be passed, the way the government will be funded and the way committees will be formed” – saying all will be dramatically changed while eliminating proxy voting, securing votes on term limits, a fair tax, and the Texas Border Plan.
Upon being sworn in, McCarthy announced that the first order of business for the 118th Session of Congress will be repeal of the 87,000 armed IRS agents who are on the trail of the American public, which was met with unanimous agreement within Republican ranks.
The first test of McCarthy’s commitments as Speaker will be adoption of an agreed-to Rules package which adds three new Members to the influential Rules Committee, as well as an essential Motion to Vacate, which offers the necessary leverage to assure that commitments made will be commitments kept.
The outstanding question yet to be answered is whether McCarthy will honor his agreement with his 20 opponents who were shrewd enough to understand that with a motion-to-vacate, or MtV, one Member could request a floor vote in what essentially would be a vote of (non)confidence.
Presumably, that vote would enable Members to vent their disagreements in public; thus undermining any autocratic Speaker making secret deals and arbitrary decisions.
While having the MtV available is useful, it’s hopefully a superfluous tool if McCarthy keeps his commitments.
As President Ronald Reagan used to say: “Trust but Verify.”
The Rules Committee is one of the most powerful committees in the House and has normally been verboten to any Member who is not in sync with the leadership’s agenda.
New Rules will potentially open up legislation to amendment, allow Members 72 hours to review pending legislation before a vote, targeting and putting a stop to those Omnibus-type bills, loaded with massive funding for inconsequential perks hidden within thousands of pages that would be unlikely to pass on their own in standalone bills. That will ensure that bills be separated into more manageable and easier-to-understand pieces of legislation with transparency about what is being voted on.
In addition, financial and budget items will be required to recognize a ten-year balanced budget proposal, especially as an increase to the $32 trillion national debt is on the Congressional horizon in the near term.
And lastly, a “Church”-like investigation into the weaponization of the FBI/DOJ against the American people will be conducted before the House Judiciary Committee which presumably will clarify who initiated the January 6 Capitol protest and planted pipe bombs at the RNC and DNC. It appears that some elements of investigating U.S. intelligence have been kept within a classified SCIF room which has deprived the public of vital information.
There is of course the reality that the RINO establishment wing of the House Republicans, the old guard who have controlled the party for decades, may feel an embittered resentment as if they and they alone have the right to decree who the Speaker should be.
Because of their seniority, they may believe that newcomers to Republican politics have no right to participate. One perfect example of that is Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) who had earlier told the House caucus if they persisted in their opposition to McCarthy, they would be denied committee seats. He later attempted an attack on Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) caught on CSPAN cameras. It is such unhinged behavior that may create an untenable atmosphere within the Republican caucus that further jeopardizes the GOP’s 2024 election.
The Dems and their mockingbird media allies continue to taunt the Republican Speaker campaign as disorganized and dysfunctional; yet the truth is that Democrats have lost sight that the true nature of politics is not that of a bunch of bobbing heads all nodding in the same direction with nary a dissenting voice as the Dems have evolved into, with a sort of a Marxist mechanical unanimity of thought seen in communist regimes.
It is appalling that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a former grade school teacher, actually believes his own gibberish that the Democrat party has achieved “progress for the American people over the last two years.” The intensity of his fabricated assertions, and boldness in monopolizing the microphone as McCarthy patiently stood nearby waiting his turn to speak, was clearly meant as a gauntlet thrown down to McCarthy.
Jeffries was providing a glimpse of how aggressive Dems expect to push back for control of the House floor as they ‘owned’ it with Pelosi – except that this time, they do not have the votes.
How will McCarthy handle Jeffries’s intent to test the Republicans’ thin House majority?
The Founders of this country, many of whom were self-identified rebels and insurgents, knew quite well that all was all not going to be smooth going as they became legislators: They argued out their differences and hung together when it mattered, and they never lost sight of the real enemy.
The media thrives on fanning the flames of antagonism because news sales depend on a new controversial headline and a new storyline of animosity and conflict.
During the four days of balloting and bickering, the 20 holdouts endured threats including a loss of committee assignments, a loss of fund-raising support, and other nefarious intimidations, and most if not all of them were members of the House Freedom Caucus.
While at least five of the 20 were first-timers newly elected to Congress, and four others were in their second Congressional terms, the other Members of the Caucus were more experienced, serving multiple terms in Congress.
It is unusual that McCarthy himself, elected to the U.S. House in 2006, has been the least-tenured Majority Leader in history, having served only seven years in Congress before his ascent to party leadership positions, a string of them.
Having found himself ensconced in political turmoil within the Republican House, he served another nine years before being elected as Speaker, making him the Speaker with the least congressional time in office since 1891. That political turmoil (which included tussles with members of the Tea Party) led to formation of the Freedom Caucus in 2015.
Assuming that the commitments and agreements are all adopted and initiated as intended, the 20 all showed the moral courage and political integrity to assume the mantle of congressional leadership in the name of all Americans.
We are in their debt for their example of patriotism in action and can only hope that their character will encourage Members of the Senate to find its own moment of courage.
The question remains whether newly elected Speaker McCarthy, with an F 54% Liberty Score from the Conservative Review, will provide the necessary leadership on behalf of the Republican principles that put the needs of the American people over personal ambition. If he is, fine. If he is not, he may be looking for a new job in two years.
Renee Parsons served on the once prestigious ACLU’s Florida State Board of Directors and as president of the ACLU Treasure Coast Chapter. She has been an elected public official in Colorado, staff in the Office of the Colorado State Public Defender, an environmental lobbyist for Friends of the Earth and a staff member of the US House of Representatives in Washington DC.