How the House GOP fell to pieces

How the House GOP fell to pieces

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy in the House chamber during the second day of voting for speaker on Wednesday. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

House Republicans are now mired in a fruitless second day of gridlock, with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy still unable to win over the hard right of his caucus in his bid to become speaker.

And because the House cannot function until a speaker is elected, GOP paralysis could have far-reaching effects on ordinary Americans. The gridlock could even hinder Congress’s ability to appropriate money if there is a natural disaster, an economic crisis or a military conflict.

The US government will start defaulting on its debt by this summer unless Congress raises the debt ceiling, a failure that would risk sending the economy into a crisis.

Analysts warn that a weak Republican speaker makes that outcome more likely, as whoever is chosen will not have the clout needed to force the divisive GOP caucus into a necessary compromise with Democrats.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., third from right, meets Wednesday in the House chamber with lawmakers, including, left, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., after a failed vote to install McCarthy as speaker. (Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Congress is also slated to pass another farm bill this year, a five-year plan with massive implications for food policy, agriculture, the environment and other issues.

Until the House elects a speaker, lawmakers can’t help their constituents with vital services like applying for Social Security and other benefits.

The House of Representatives, with members elected every two years instead of every six as in the Senate, “is supposed to be the body closest to the people,” Brendan Buck, a former adviser to former Republican Speaker Paul Ryan, told Yahoo News. .

“And when [the House] it cannot function at all, it cannot be expected to respond to their needs. There are fundamental House responsibilities, but we also need Congress to act when things are urgent,” Buck said. “A complete division in our legislature tells the people and the world that we can’t be counted on to solve problems and ensure stability.”

The current problems of the House of Representatives of the Republic stem from years of disagreements within its ranks.

From left, Jonathan Burks, Ashlee Strong and Brendan Buck, aides to House Speaker Paul Ryan, in the Capitol Status Hall in 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images)

For more than a decade, the GOP has been stymied by a faction that sees getting nothing better than something unless it can get everything it wants. Sometimes this faction actually wanted nothing.

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While uniquely awkward, the deadlock over the presidency is just the latest in a series of deadlocks caused by the party’s right wing.

In the debt ceiling crises of 2011 and 2013, House Republicans refused to raise the limit on debt-free borrowing and caused a selloff in stocks and economic tremors.

In the fall of 2013, vowing to “defund Obamacare,” House and Senate Republicans led a campaign that had no chance of success but led to a 16-day government shutdown.

In 2015, Republican Speaker John Boehner decided he had had enough of trying to lead the increasingly chaotic Republican Party and abruptly left his post. McCarthy, R-Calif., made a bid to replace him but withdrew his name after it became clear he didn’t have the votes. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was then selected as a compromise candidate.

Ryan, long considered one of the party’s brightest rising stars, struggled with the demands of the position. In 2018, even though the GOP controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, another three-day government shutdown occurred as Democrats engaged in tough politics comparable to what Republicans had done in the past.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in 2017. (Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Later that year, Republicans lost control of the House. Ryan, bruised and battered from trying to lead the House GOP, declined to run for re-election and, like Boehner before him, dropped out of politics altogether.

Finally it was McCarthy’s turn. McCarthy, long seen by his fellow Republicans as a beloved but limited figure, became GOP leader in a House once again run by Democrats. He spoke angrily of winning back the House by a comfortable margin in the 2022 election, but emerged with a slim majority, only to be teased by the tough lines he would have to face to became chairman.

So the party remains on the same fractured trajectory it has been on for the past decade or more. His powerful anti-government wing, having learned the politics of social media celebrity and TV fame from former President Donald Trump, is perhaps more intransigent than ever, and sometimes unable to even articulate its demands.

The GOP has long had a libertarian streak. President Ronald Reagan famously said in his inaugural address in 1981 that “government is not the solution to our problem.” But Reagan’s Republicans were also interested in governing and the necessary compromises with Democrats that this entailed.

However, when the Democrats regained the White House under Bill Clinton, a new, tough generation of Republicans took over. Grover Norquist, an anti-tax advocate who gained great influence in Republican politics, famously said he wanted to shrink government to the point where he could “drow it in a bathtub.”

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, takes the microphone with, from left, Sen. David Perdue and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at a news conference in 2017. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, wrote Wednesday that the GOP has been anti-government for so long that it’s now “an entirely anti-system party.” And it’s very difficult to lead a party against the system when leading means being part of the system.”

Several possible solutions to the problem of extremist politics have been offered promisingly. In many races for the House, Senate and state houses in the 2022 midterm elections, voters strongly rejected right-wing radicalism. If the GOP continues on its current trajectory — and voters continue to punish it for it — it becomes increasingly likely that the party will have to moderate its stance, if only out of necessity.

Some structural changes can also make representatives more responsive to the will of voters. The state of Alaska, for example, has created a new way to elect members of Congress and its statewide officials: Get rid of party primaries.

Alaska’s system allows anyone to run in a primary, in which the top five vote-getters advance to the fall election and the winner is chosen by a runoff or ranked-choice vote in which the winner must receive at least 50% of votes.

Democrats applaud party leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., on the House floor Wednesday. (Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Eliminating party primaries takes control of the process out of the hands of a small number of hard-line voters on each side. Under the current system, only about 10% of eligible voters cast ballots in party primaries, and only one candidate can emerge from each party’s primary.

So by the time the largest group of voters turn up for the fall election to choose a winner, the election is narrowed down to two candidates who have often secured their party’s primaries by catering to its most extreme members.

An open primary that promotes the top five vote-getters to the fall general election allows more moderate and compromise-minded politicians to compete. This reform is being considered in Nevada and variations of it have been adopted in Maine and in cities in Colorado, Washington state and Utah.

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