McCarthy is now the speaker, but will be far and away the weakest speaker in US History. He let twenty crazies (less than 4% of the membership) extort him. Let’s look at the concessions he made to become speaker. (This list is incomplete.)
- A return to a rule that would allow rank-and-file lawmakers to force a snap vote on ousting the speaker. How strong a speaker can you be when any rep can call for your removal at any time? There will be one rep who will do this again and again. Why wouldn’t you if your goal is obstruction and media coverage? More time wasted on votes, and probably more concessions.
- A major political action committee aligned with Mr. McCarthy agreed to limit its role in G.O.P. primaries in safe Republican districts. This one is interesting. In an effort to stop the crazies, GOP PACs supported some challengers to current members. Now they can’t do that. It strengthens the power of the crazies, but more generally increases the power of incumbency even more. It decreases the power of the party, and increases the incentives for individual members to wreak havoc. Note the crazies get massive media exposure and fundraising lifts every time they do another damaging performative stunt. Part of the reason these votes took so long is because they don’t really care what they get, they just want to fight to get the money.
- The hard right would get approval power over some plum committee assignments, including a third of the members on the influential Rules Committee, which controls what legislation reaches the floor and in what form. This is insane. McCarthy let 4% of the membership grab a significant amount of formal power beyond their numbers. Give the crazies credit, they understand where the levers of power are.
- Spending bills would have to be considered under so-called open rules, allowing any member to put to a vote an unlimited number of changes that could gut or scuttle the legislation altogether. This may not be so bad. Currently, votes are usually held up or down on enormous bills that no Rep has read or understands, and can’t be modified. The ability to amend them without voting no may make bills better. Note that this decreases the power of the Speaker and the party yet more.
- (Unclear if this is true, but widely reported) Agreed not to fund the government without significant concessions. This will not go well for anyone. The GOP will not fund the government or raise the debt-ceiling without concessions from Biden and the Democrats. The Republicans can’t seem to make policy when they are in charge, instead they wait until they are in the minority then put a gun to the head of the Democrats. The problem for them is, they lose every time. The country saw enough of this under Clinton and Obama. The Democrats will not give an inch, they will offer zero concessions, and dare the GOP to shut the country down. Which the GOP will, then they will eventually fold, and we will back where we started, but with yet more damage done.
- Removal of metal detectors. I watched one live hearing of the Jan 6th committee. It happened to present all kinds of primary evidence of the massive amounts of weaponry being held back by the presence of metal detectors. The metal detectors are a inconvenience to the business of the house, but they serve an important function – stopping an insurrection. This isn’t security theater, it’s real security. And, by the way, the crazies are the exact people who supported the actual insurrection. That is not a coincidence.
- Weakening ethics oversight. Well, of course.
All in all, it adds up to a Speaker who has no real power. Who has given away the store to the people dedicated to wrecking the government. And for what? To get a title that will mean nothing. McCarthy is just the latest entry of GOP Speakers who can’t do anything because they give in to the crazies. Go ask Paul Ryan or John Boehmer how that worked out. You reap what you sow.
Partisanship is so high. I wonder if at any point there were conversation between McCarthy and the Democrats, or the Democrats and other Republicans. You could easily see another version of the negotiations. Many Democrats and some Republicans elect a centrist Republican. The concessions are to make the House run well as an institution: Removing debt ceiling, removal of Hastert rule, etc. I presume both sides are so hardened the idea of working with the other party is unspeakable.