Daniel Webster

The House Freedom Caucus (Feature the Bug Bass Beat Mix)

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

Here is a strange proposition: The Trump effect, currently plaguing the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, is a feature, not a bug.

While the notion of sucking up all the oxygen is certainly evident as Republican candidates struggle for breath, consider for a moment that there is also a Democratic contest afoot. To the other, all we really hear about it is a string of scandal stories about Hillary Clinton, and how many people turn out for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

And, of course, any time we might lead with a joke like, What do Kim Davis and Donald Trump have in common? we might rest assured that our uneasiness is genuine because things really have gotten that far out of hand.

The question of the hour:

Barring a historic meltdown, Republicans will select Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be their nominee for speaker Thursday. But does that mean McCarthy will get 218 votes in the House floor vote on Oct. 29?

(Fuller)

Meanwhile, House Democrats aren’t exactly sitting back and watching, but nobody should feel badly for thinking otherwise. There is plenty of intrigue to go around, but the drama in the House of Representatives is exclusively Republican.

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Regular Chaos

U.S. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R/UT-03), left, and Daniel Webster (R/FL-10). in detail of frame from msnbc, 6 October 2015.

“The job of the Speaker of the House is not to preside over regular order. The Speaker’s job is to expedite the will of the majority party, to keep the trains running on time and to otherwise protect the prerogatives and the power of the House of Representatives.”

John Feehery

John Feehery is of the sort whose conservative credentials should not be dismissed lightly, though in the contemporary GOP that would put the Republican strategist and former aide to then-Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL14) squarely within the establishment wing of the Party. And he offers up a fine recollection for The Hill about, “The myth of regular order”.

Pay attention:

When Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) became Speaker, he too promised regular order. Indeed, he famously allowed the House to work its will early on in his tenure, in 2011, to have the Rules Committee allow members to offer countless amendments to spending bills, to give his members more access to the levers of power.

But the conflict between the will of the majority of the House and the majority of his majority became untenable. A clear majority — including the Speaker — wanted action on a comprehensive immigration bill, but his Republican Conference did not. A clear majority wanted to lift the budget caps, but a majority of his majority did not. A clear majority in the House did not want the government to shut down, but his conference clearly thought that shutting it down was a necessary exercise in a battle of wills with President Obama.

We might take a moment for his generosity, of course, on that last, which might well have been an exercise in cynically letting the backbenchers charge the enemy guns because they’re too stupid not to, and this isn’t the day to force a no-confidence vote.

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The Ruckus on the Hill

House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23), speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Monday, 25 February 2013. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty.)

“This is serious. McCarthy’s words matter in his current leadership position in the House and will matter even more if he is elected as speaker. He needs to raise his game, collect his thoughts, be very sure-footed and display some measured, informed and thoughtful leadership. In the weeks ahead, he will be called on to explain his worldview and you can bet our allies and our enemies will be watching. Republicans need to be sure we are introducing a new serious actor onto a very troubled world stage. Now is not a good time for verbal bumbling or embarrassing ignorance.”

Ed Rogers

To the one, Ed Rogers is not exactly a proverbial Rino; his right-wing bona fides are well established.

To the other, that’s the point; there are already conservative challenges afoot, including House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03), fresh off his magical mystery tour aboard the S.S. Colonoscopy, an extraneous metaphor, since he managed a self-exam earlier in the week, but, hey, why not follow up a monumental clusterdiddle with a run for the Speaker’s gavel?

Ed Rogers of BGR Group, in undated photo; credit unknown.And to a third, regardless of where the challenge is coming from, they do have a point. The effect of the would-be Speaker in Waiting’s poor oral discipline has been devastating. Republicans already gamble on a do-nothing Congress; they do not, as Mr. Rogers notes, have any real need for that institution’s equivalent of an old-tyme geek show.

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Image notes: Top ― House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23), speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., Monday, 25 February 2013. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty.) Right ― Ed Rogers of BGR Group, in undated photo. (Credit unknown.)

Bendery, Jennifer. “Watch Jason Chaffetz React As He’s Accused Of ‘Beating Up On A Woman’ Over Her Pay”. The Huffington Post. 29 September 2015.

Hess, Hannah. “Inspector General Reopens Secret Service Probe of Chaffetz Leak”. Roll Call. 5 October 2015.

Rogers, Ed. “Republicans fret over McCarthy’s skills”. The Washington Post. 2 Octoer 2015.

Your House of Republican Chaos

Speaker Boehner announced his resignation 25 September 2015.

Follow the bouncing something, as the spectacle inside the House GOP seems a performance for the ages. As the factions line up, Speaker Boehner’s allies are scorching the insurgency:

GOP lawmakers who’ve stood by Boehner’s side throughout his rocky five-year tenure as Speaker bitterly blamed the right flank for forcing a contested leadership race less than a year after the party won control of Congress in the 2014 midterm elections.

A fired-up House Ethics Committee Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), speaking not long after Boehner dropped the bombshell at a Friday conference meeting that he’ll leave Congress at the end of next month, ripped into hard-line conservatives.

He accused them of opposing Boehner at every turn, and noted they have “never had a horse of their own.”

“Any jackass can kick down a barn door. It takes a carpenter to hang one. We need a few more carpenters around here. Everybody knows it,” Dent said off the House floor.

Leadership allies are frustrated by what they see as a repeated exercise in futility.

(Marcos)

And the hardliners posture:

A co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus has a warning for any Republican hoping to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): No one will get the promotion without our blessing.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a sharp critic of Boehner, said Friday that there are roughly 40 members of the group — and another 20 conservatives outside of it — who won’t back any new Speaker who fails their litmus test for conservative purity. And the group’s leadership endorsements, he warned, will be “a collective, corporate decision.”

“We have enough votes in the House Freedom Caucus to prevent anybody from being Speaker. We will be a voting bloc,” Huelskamp said.

“We’re looking for someone who, number one, has conservative principles and actually can articulate them, but also … follows through on John Boehner’s [2011] promise … [to] open up this House and let conservatives have a shot at things,” he added. “And at the end of the day, the Democrats had more shot at amendments than conservatives. So we’ve gotta talk about process as well.”

(Lillis)

And Rep. Daniel Webster (FL-10) pretends his gavel ambitions have a chance of success, while other House players scramble to fall up the ladder.

This is the point at which we are supposed to make some sort of joke about things either starting or ceasing to make sense, and it is our shame to disappoint you; there is no baseline by which the idea of making sense makes any sense.

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The Not-Quite Silence of the Moment

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

And now it gets interesting … er …ah … proverbially. You know. Never mind:

Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) has declared his candidacy to replace Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) as Speaker.

“My goal is for the House of Representatives to be based on principle, not on power,” Webster said in a statement. “Every Member of Congress deserves a seat at the table to be involved in the process. I will continue fighting for this to become a reality in Washington, and will be running for Speaker of the House.”

(Richardson)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) participates in the press conference announcing House GOP leadership for the upcoming session of Congress on Thursday, 13 November 2014.  (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)House custom would see Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA23) ascend to the gavel, and early rumors of a potential challenge from Majority Whip Steve Scalise were undone when the Republican from Louisiana’s First announced he was after McCarthy’s current job. Meanwhile, House Republican leaders are distancing themselves from challenging McCarthy’s ascension, and radio host Mark Levin is trying to rally public outcry against McCarthy.

This could certainly get interesting.

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