Our republic dodged a bullet last week when, at the 11th hour, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that he was removing himself from consideration for Speaker of the House. His surprise announcement came after John Boehner had assembled all GOP House members to elect his replacement.
Speaker Boehner, who is supposed to retire at the end of the month, had rushed this election to ensure that McCarthy, his chief lieutenant, would succeed him. However, when McCarthy bailed, Boehner asked for unanimous consent to postpone the vote. Before anyone could object, he dismissed the caucus, leaving the two remaining candidates in the race, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Daniel Webster of FL, twisting in the wind.
What are Chaffetz and Webster? Chopped liver? Chaffetz, a former communications executive is young and ambitious. He won a four-way race to become the chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee becoming only the fifth Member of Congress in 89 years to become a full chairman after just three terms. Webster is serving only his third term in Washington but he is a political legend in the swing-state of Florida. He rose through the ranks in the state legislator to become the first Republican Speaker of the House in 122 years. As speaker he was respected on both sides of the aisle for his fair and even hand.
Both of these men are capable of leading the House of Representatives. They just were not a part of Boehner’s hand-picked, do-nothing leadership team, and they didn’t have his permission to jump to the head of the line.
The abrupt adjournment after McCarthy’s announcement signaled the end of what should have been a brief democratic process!
That is why Boehner is trying to recruit Paul Ryan. As chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Ryan is another of the speaker’s trusted lieutenants.
Let’s be clear. Although we elect our representatives to Congress, once they get to Washington, they find themselves in a monarchy where the leader of each party functions like a king. Your member is not free to vote the way the people back home expects him or her to vote. Each must vote the way the leadership tells him to vote.
If a member is from a district that expects a congressman to vote for a bill against the wishes of the leadership, he or she is given a pass if his or her vote isn’t needed. That allows members to save face. It’s a grand charade! However, if another vote is needed, one or two members are selected to “walk the plank,” and if they don’t, their next office will be in the broom closet.
That is why the House Freedom Caucus endorsed Webster — the same Freedom Caucus that is now given credit for ousting Speaker Boehner. Webster promised to free them from the monarchy they have operated under for longer than I can remember. He promised that, if elected, he would run a member-driven, principle-based caucus. Imagine that!
He also promised to end the practice of crisis politics, where bills are brought up a few days before they must be passed. At that point, leadership goes behind closed doors to work out the details without member input and then presents them with a must-pass scenario. Does any of that sound familiar?
Now leadership is telling us that we must have Paul Ryan, but not so fast. Is Ryan the conservative that you think he is? He was the brains behind every closed-door spending bill that Boehner hatched with Obama. He voted for the prescription drug entitlement, No Child Left Behind, caps on CEO pay and the bloated, depression-era agriculture bill. He was among a small minority of Republicans who voted for every bailout that has come his way and ENDA, the bill that would have written sexual orientation into our civil rights law. Even more problematic, he is a major supporter of giving amnesty to those who have come here illegally.
Big media, including your favorite cable news channels, is telling us that the Republican caucus is in disarray due to 40 hard-line conservatives.
Not so! In reality, there are 40 principled conservatives on the right who have vowed to fight for what they believe and there are about the same number of liberal Republicans on the left (the media calls them moderate) who want a Boehner clone. The vast majority are simply trying to go along to get along in order to protect their precious seats.
These people need your encouragement to break free from the House monarchy.