Assessing the ‘Dysfunctional’ 118th House of Representatives
The American left holds a number of misconceptions about the United States Congress.
The first is that passing legislation the left favors has – or should have – no impediments; second, that Congress’ raison d’être is to pass laws and grow government; and, finally, the busiest Congress is the best Congress.
Most, or, at least, enough Americans disagree.
In November, voters gave Republicans a narrow U.S. House majority in order to rein in the overreaching ambitions of congressional, White House and administration Democrats .
That’s how politics works in an American system that, if it could, the left would abolish in favor of “whatever we want.”
When the 118th House convened on January 3, Democrats and national media (forgive the redundancy), were absolutely giddy over majority Republicans’ contentious four-day process to elect a Speaker, calling it “dysfunctional,” “chaotic,” “embarrassing,” among other smug characterizations. Establishment “status quo” Republicans agreed.
Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was arguably the only Republican in Washington who wanted the job – so desperately, in fact, that his opponents could – and did – negotiate from a position of strength. McCarthy was finally elected Speaker on the fifteenth ballot after making some important concessions to the conservative members who initially opposed him.
As the reality of McCarthy’s concessions began to sink in, the left’s giddiness turned into horror.
For example, pearl-clutching Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank hyperbolically opined that McCarthy allowed reactionary Republicans to literally destroy the House: “This is what happens when a political party…systematically destroys the norms and institutions of democracy. […] [McCarthy] is trying to save his own political ambitions by agreeing to institutionalize the chaos – not just for the next two years but for future congresses as well…”
What was it about McCarthy’s deal that got the left’s collective knickers in a twist? What, precisely, did the “rebels,” a/k/a, “representatives duly-elected to serve their constituents’ interests,” actually “destroy?”
McCarthy’s concessions included special House investigative panels to examine 1) the origins of the COVID-19 virus and 2) the politicizing of federal law enforcement agencies that conspired with at least one social media company to violate Americans’ First Amendment rights.
Under the agreement, the House will vote on border security, term limits, ending COVID mandates/funding, and budgets that apply brakes to the congressional profligacy behind the worst inflation in forty years.
Votes will not be called on House bills for at least seventy-two hours following introduction to give members time to…gasp!…read them.
Once installed, the House passed a package of rules changes sought by the conservative Freedom Caucus that included 1) modifying the appropriations process to allow floor amendments from any member, 2) reinstating the “Holman rule” allowing the House to eliminate funding for specific government programs, and 3) allowing a single lawmaker to make a motion to remove the Speaker.
In other words, massive “omnibus” spending bills may be a thing of the past. House members can now read, question and police the details of spending bills, eliminate funding for unproductive or renegade bureaucrats, programs and/or agencies, and force the Speaker to keep his promises. Scandalous, right…?
In addition, Freedom Caucus conservatives were included on two committees – Rules and Appropriations – that are central to how the House operates and authorizes funding.
The agreement apparently did not specify digging into the sordid contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop or public suspicions about shady deal-making, influence peddling and the enrichment of the “presidential” family, but investigations are in order. Frankly, Democrats should welcome any opportunity to prove to America once and for all that the Biden family is not a criminal enterprise.
In summary, the Republican House majority took its time, debated, voted, debated, re-voted, compromised, and reached a democratic decision in exactly the way America’s Founders envisioned that chamber conducting its business, while demonstrating, to the left’s dismay, that Republicans do know how to fight, and that compromise doesn’t necessarily mean giving Democrats “whatever they want.”
After the gavel and rules package were passed, Speaker McCarthy commented, “Congress has been broken for a long time. Over the years, a concentration of power within the Speaker’s Office has kept lawmakers…from participating in the legislative process… Lawmaking should be open to all Members, not just a select few, so that the best ideas win.”
McCarthy’s concessions contained plenty of positives and nothing controversial, the left’s anxieties and congressional misconceptions notwithstanding.