Local pundits call Washington dysfunction ‘a disaster’
The historic five-day effort to elect a new House speaker in Washington is likely to have a lasting impact on party politics and Republicans’ ability to govern, local experts say.
After five days of voting, including a session late Friday night that continued into early Saturday — when the 14th and 15th votes were cast — California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy was finally named chairman of the young of the Chamber.
The speaker’s multiple votes, something not seen in Washington in a century, have the House deadlocked. He delayed installing new members, including two from Southwestern Pennsylvania: Democrats Summer Lee and Chris Deluzio, who were elected in November to their first terms in office.
But it’s the GOP that figures to be the big loser, according to Joe DiSarro, a political science professor at Washington & Jefferson College.
“What’s happening in D.C. is a disaster for the Republican Party,” DiSarro said. “The Republican Party will be hit by the liberal media. It’s a spectacle.”
The shutdown prevented the House from conducting any business during the first week of the new Congress. Deluzio, who represents parts of Allegheny and Beaver counties, and Lee, who was elected to represent Pittsburgh, eastern Allegheny and western Westmoreland County, were in Washington last week expecting to be sworn into office Tuesday.
Instead, they had to wait until early Saturday.
The new members were allowed to vote in the election of the chairman, but were unable to perform all the functions of their new job.
Lee could not be reached for comment Friday.
Guy Reschenthaler, R-Peters, who represents most of Westmoreland County and parts of Washington and Fayette, did not respond to requests for comment. Reschenthaler repeatedly endorsed McCarthy, according to public accounts of the speaker’s votes.
He issued a statement Saturday afternoon that did not address the fight to elect McCarthy as chairman. He addressed Republicans’ plans after taking control of the House.
Paul Adams, an associate professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh in Greensburg, said the ongoing infighting among Republicans, who in November won a slim majority in the House of Representatives, could have a lasting impact on the ability of the party to move legislation through Congress. .
“It’s kind of like a ‘defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.’ Now, the story is about breaking them, when that’s usually a pretty common thing to pick a speaker,” Adams said. “Democrats can sit back, do nothing for a while and watch the circus.”
DiSarro, who calls himself a partisan Republican, said that as the new chairman, McCarthy will be in a weak position. It creates a circumstance that is likely to thwart the GOP agenda.
“It increases the power of Democrats,” DiSarro said. “That’s why, if you’re a staunch Republican, you’re going to be totally disgusted. This speaks to where the party is going and why they don’t know where they are going.
“It also speaks volumes about what could happen (in the presidential election) in 2024.”
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can reach Rich by email at [email protected] or via Twitter.