Well, today’s title isn’t technically accurate. Representative McCarthy did win the title of Speaker of the House. He defied the odds, and pressed on to win on the fifteenth ballot last week. He certainly should be awarded the prize for stick-to-it-iveness, since few prizes of any other sort will be coming his way.
The job of the Speaker, after all, is to lead the majority party in the House in passing legislation to help the American people. Those in the far-far-right wing of the Republican party, whose votes McCarthy worked so cravenly to earn, finally supported him – but only after sealing him in a box of concessions that will make it almost impossible for him to pass any legislation, or even to govern.
These people will now try their best to deadlock the House through their promised positions on the crucial House Rules Committee. They also will need only one member’s vote to seek removal of McCarthy from the Speakership should he seek any votes from Democrats. These people are, in the words of one anonymous tweeter in the GOP, “nihilists,” and called thugs by various media pundits. Their goal is to make passage of legislation and government action difficult, if not impossible.
That will please all members of the so-called Freedom Caucus. Representative Chip Roy, a Republican who voted against McCarthy for eleven ballots, is now happy, for example, to shrink the size of government. “If you don’t stop spending money we don’t have,” he proclaimed, “to fund the bureaucracy that is undermining the American people, we cannot win.”
Winning, for Roy and others in his group of extremists, means limiting programs like Social Security and other forms of aid to poor and middle-class Americans, especially if they live in large cities controlled by Democrats. Programs that support these people “undermine” the wealthy Americans, who are expected to help pay for them. Helping the poor is called “socialism” – which, of course, it is not.
Winning for them means shifting the tax burden from the very wealthy to those on lower ends of the income scale. In Kentucky we are doing this by gradually replacing the state income tax with sales taxes that will burden the poor and middle class. Winning means passing fewer measures that require using tax revenue to help the poor and middle class.
Winning means refusing to increase the debt ceiling later this year, even if it means a government shutdown and the United States defaulting on its bills for the first time in history. Republican representative Ralph Norman put it bluntly before agreeing to support McCarthy for speaker: “Is he willing to shut the government down rather than raise the debt ceiling,” he asked of McCarthy. “That is a non-negotiable.”
For those who made McCarthy’s victory possible, winning also means shifting the job of “the people’s House” from passing laws to investigating “enemies” on the Left, a group that includes President Biden and almost anyone who works for him or may be expected to be a Democratic voter. (Exaggeration intended.)
Our First District Congressman James Comer is chomping at the bit to begin such investigations as the new chair of the House Oversight Committee in the 118th Congress.
Kevin McCarthy’s willingness to make concessions to what one pundit called the “fringiest fringe of the GOP” does not make him the leader of the House of Representatives, but only the holder of the title of Speaker of the House.
It is an empty victory unless he can find a way to secure votes from the Democratic caucus. Given his ties to former President Donald Trump, this bi-partisan path seems closed to him. After seeing twenty people manipulate the Congress and the country, all we get for this is ... Kevin McCarthy with a new title. All House Republicans should feel shame and chagrin at the helpless position in which their “leader” has placed them.
He has become hostage to the “nattering nabobs of negativity” that are the members of the far-right wing of the Republican party. That famous alliterative term was first used by another Republican, Vice-President Spiro Agnew, to describe those who opposed the Nixon administration’s war in Vietnam.
Agnew was later forced to resign his post in disgrace. Perhaps we will see the same thing happen to Kevin McCarthy.