It took 15 ballots, but early this morning soon after midnight Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, CA, was clutching the speaker’s gavel handed to him by new Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. McCarthy’s dream to become Speaker of the House has come true, but now begins the nightmare of governance amid a slim, deeply fractured majority—and following a raft of concessions made to the extremist saboteur wing of his Republican Party.
We don’t yet know the details—we won’t learn about the rules package he agreed to until Monday when Congress is in session again—but he likely has enabled any one rank-and-file member of Congress to call for a snap vote to remove him from his new job. The aggressively anti-government contingent has likely secured seats on the Rules Committee, influencing what bills reach the floor; they or other members may be able to employ so-called open rules to push for an unlimited number of changes on spending bills, making passage nearly impossible.
No matter how much the craven McCarthy pounds his wooden gavel, basic and important issues such as raising the debt limit to avoid default will be fraught with conflict and risk government collapse. As I noted yesterday, the Republicans have already made clear their top concerns include wasteful plans to investigate Hunter Biden and the contents of his laptop. What’s a serious legislator—what’s a country—to do to ensure that genuine challenges are addressed? I think this GOP-led 118th Congress, now sworn in, will give a whole new meaning to the notion of political gridlock; the circus really has come to town. (Note who was seated side-by-side last night: Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and the fraudulent George Santos.)
In the weeks and month ahead, we may be wringing our hands daily about the weak House Speaker and his inability to hold off the constant sabotage and conduct House business. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reflect on what we expect Congress to do. We surely will hear the new Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries speaking out on everything from voting rights and defending democracy, economic equality and reproductive freedom to health care, the climate crisis and a “unanimity of purpose” among the Democrats. (If you didn’t catch his historic and inspiring speech before McCarthy took over, do yourself a favor.)
So here’s the question: What problem should Congress address? Never mind for a moment the difficulty of doing so. Share your ideas of one or several top problems that need to be fixed and causes that could benefit from a Congress ready to improve America and create a better world. As always, I look forward to reading your answers—and for this community to hear from each other. Please do be respectful in your replies.
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*Photo: New Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries hands Kevin McCarthy the speaker’s gavel on Jan. 7, 2023. Photo by Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.