While Republicans in Congress nervously watch the clock and wonder how erstwhile frontrunner for Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) can possibly pull off a win after losing seven consecutive ballots, Democrats are licking their metaphorical chops over this first test, and failure, of Republican Party leadership.
The chaos has led some in the press to gleefully speculate over the possibility Democrats may get to choose the next House Speaker after all. If Republicans can’t get behind McCarthy, and if they can’t get behind Rep. Steve Scalise, who is most likely to be nominated should McCarthy fail; if Democrats can convince enough Republicans to cross party lines to vote for Hakeem Jeffries, and if Jeffries can get all the Democrats to cooperate: It might happen.
But that’s a lot of ifs.
The media outlets entertaining this far-fetched idea are generally the same media outlets that have spent the last six years predicting — with increasing, rather than diminishing certainty — the imminent political demise and arrest of former President Donald J. Trump.
It’s hard to blame the Democratic Party for enjoying this a bit, however.
Usually, it is the Democratic Party in disarray. From the embarrassing administration of the recent elections in the state of Arizona to the humiliating spectacle of the 2020 Iowa Democratic caucus, to the debacle during Mayor Eric Adams’ primary race in New York, whereupon he almost lost because 135,000 test ballots were accidentally counted.
For Republicans, who pride themselves on competency as their brand, this episode is especially frustrating.
While they enjoy seeing their colleagues across the aisle suffer the slings and arrows of dissenters, turn-coats, media-hounds, and contrarians in the Democratic Party, Republicans aren’t enjoying the healthy, internecine disputes when its GOP dirty laundry being aired on C-SPAN for three consecutive days.
It’s easy to look unified when you’re the opposition. Once you’re in a position to lead, everyone has an opinion.
Already, McCarthy has made a host of concessions to his party’s answer to Sen. Joe Manchin and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH), who nominated McCarthy for the Speakership during one round of voting, read a list of some of the concessions on the House floor yesterday. These include:
“Andrew Clyde’s proposal to restore public access to the Capitol.”
“Lauren Boebert’s proposal to reduce the linkage between the NRCC and the steering committee process.”
“Gary Palmer’s proposal to cap spending on suspension bills.”
“Ralph Norman’s proposal to limit leadership reports and make conference more about engaging all members.”
“Chip Roy’s proposal to provide a five-day notice for suspension votes.”
“Chip Roy’s proposal to make cosponsored amendments in order.”
“Dan Bishop’s proposal in privileged resolutions.”
“Scott Perry’s proposal for additional conference meetings ahead of key votes.”
“Bob Good’s proposal on stand-alone appropriation bills.”
Andy Biggs’ proposal limiting suspension waivers from committees.”
“We’re on the precipice of such a destructive argument today,” Rep. Davidson begged his fellow Republicans. “I plead with all, all of my Republican colleagues: Let cooler, more rational heads prevail. Let us unite as Republicans to elect the next Speaker of the House.”
The 20 Republican dissenters holding up the works still have other demands as yet unmet, however.
Will Republicans manage to end this disarray and pull together in the end?
Their majority might be stronger for these growing pains. On the other hand, a weakened Speaker McCarthy, having only barely limped over the finish line, might have a very hard time whipping his caucus into line for future votes.
It isn’t so much that these 20 Republican holdouts are gumming up the works today. Going forward, McCarthy can only — ever — afford to lose four Republican votes on any legislation the GOP manages to get onto the floor.
The Speakership is going to be a tightrope, whoever walks it. A Speakership tightrope stretched between such shaky moors is even more treacherous.
And Democrats, just like Republicans, are always waiting below to pounce.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)