McCarthy Doesn’t Have a Viable Opponent, but He Also Does Not Have the Votes to be Speaker

By all accounts, the current situation in the U.S. House is sort of a weightless, gravityless struggle of both sides floating and spinning to try and achieve their goals; on the one side, the 85% of the GOP caucus who want McCarthy elected speaker.  And on the other side, some 15% voted no, but likely are not all hard Nos (15% means McCarthy was 31 votes short in his nomination vote).

On the one hand, the No votes agree they do not have an alternative candidate who could get 218 votes, but they are clear on one thing, they don’t want McCarthy.

In lieu of an actual alternative to the Speaker, the No votes want rule changes as to how the U.S. House will be run.

Here is their list of rule changes — the site is slow, be patient for it to load.

McCarthy is at a straight-arm No on Rules changes.

Perhaps this is his opening negotiating position.

Perhaps he will negotiate if he can’t turn some of the hard Nos, whose numbers vary from five to 13 to 20, depending on the day of the week and depending on who you ask.

The No votes are telling their colleagues, to vote no on the first ballot to bring McCarthy to the table for rule changes.

This is alarming to some Republicans because the Democrats could, in theory, vote for a Republican they want as Speaker, peel off five other GOP House members, and bam, the Dems, with a handful of Republicans, just elected a bi-partisan Speaker, since five no votes put McCarthy at 217, one vote short.

That means all the Dems (213) plus five GOP House members put them at 218, and could elect a Speaker.

One prominent Dem yesterday said he’d be open to voting for a Republican for Speaker, but of course, the question of 1) which Republican and 2) whether you could get all 213 Dems to Yes on that proposition, and then 3)  find five GOP House Members are three highly fraught questions, which, until answered, make the bi-partisan Speaker Gambit little more than a Washington, D.C. parlor game.

The best course of action for McCarthy is simple, and that is to hold out, try and convert those who, by all accounts, are unconvertible.

And if he can’t get the votes, he needs to make a deal.

The political instability and endless uncertainty that is now in the U.S. political system are hurting us at home and abroad.

Political instability hurts us economically and makes money go to where there is stability; plus, political instability is one of the root causes of inflation.

And the best and most helpful concession McCarthy could make is to allow an open rule on legislation on the House floor, on a regular basis.

Open rules allow legislators to have votes on any bill that’s near and dear to their hearts.

It also creates a political safety valve for the majority party by bringing issues with substantial political support (that have amendments that pass or do better in votes than the majority expects) to the fore and to their attention, in a way they would not otherwise have considered.  This helps everyone understand new and powerful political movements early and allows policies to be crafted prior to the next election.

And if the majority party loses on votes that they oppose, then it shows them they need to do more work to shore up their position.

The other side of the coin is that those members with quixotic or eccentric or a bit out-there-proposals lose badly and soundly; they will mercifully shut up about it and not embarrass themselves or their party with further discussions about it.

Plus, the Dems also want an open rule to have House floor votes on their voter’s pet peeves.

Then, low and behold, actual legislating will break out.

Members of Congress will become more interested in passing laws than tweeting or showing up on Fox News or MSNBC with some incredibly divisive sound bite.

Why?  Because they can get a vote on their proposal, they know they will get a vote because they can offer their amendment and will do the work to educate their fellow Members of Congress and earn their votes.

Regular open rules would ultimately allow all Members to offer carefully crafted, well-thought-out proposals, not some helter-skelter list of horseback amendments, all because everyone thinks they will only get one shot at offering it and they have to hurry up and do it.

But a regular schedule will allow Members the time to work on their idea and offer it when it has a majority of votes.

Regular open rules will do a great service to the country, and allow us to actually address the various cultural, societal, political, technological, and economic changes that demand and therefore need our laws to change, but which are never able to simply because the legislative process is broken, badly broken.

If the United States cannot change its laws, then sooner or later, it will not be a superpower.

But more importantly, the current system will be displaced by one that actually works and changes laws so the country can address important untended issues.  And it will likely be much more authoritarian.

And more open rules is one of the demands the Freedom Caucus is making. Below is a quote from their list (bold and italics added by me) :

4) Open the Legislative Process. For Members of Congress to represent the will of their constituents in lawmaking, they must have the ability to actually participate in making laws. No Member of the “People’s House” has been allowed to offer an amendment in an open process to change legislation being considered on the floor since May 2016. The Republican 115th Congress broke the record for the most bills considered without amendments. Americans expect more from Republicans than to be mere rubber stamps, blocked from having any impact on legislation beyond voting for or against a final product. Republican Conference rules must be changed to require all legislation considered on the floor to allow amendments. If amendments must be limited to some degree, then any Republican amendment supported by at least 10 percent of the Republican Conference must be allowed to be offered, debated, and voted on.

I have a colleague, a Democratic lobbyist who has more than 375 cosponsors on a House bill that in the last three Congresses has been voted out of the Committee of jurisdiction each time — during both Democratic and Republican control — but has never been voted on the House floor.

How exactly are Members of Congress supposed to do their job of legislating if their ideas can’t get a vote?

Nothing focuses a Member of Congress’s time and attention like a vote on their legislative proposal.

It is time for a regular schedule of open rules — once every 30 days the House is in Session ought to suffice.

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