Friday, October 9, 2015

A House Divided

Facing yet another federal government shutdown due to the Republican Party's opposition to Planned Parenthood, House Speaker, John Boehner, shocked the political world when he announced his resignation from that position.  The Republican party was dealt yet another blow yesterday when the man slated to replace Boehner, majority leader Kevin McCarthy, also announced that he, too, has decided to decline the Speakership.

As the New York Times put it:

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California abruptly withdrew on Thursday from the race to succeed Speaker John A. Boehner, blindsiding his House Republican colleagues and throwing their already tumultuous chamber into deeper chaos with no clear leader in sight just weeks before a series of high-stakes fiscal battles.
As lawmakers ate barbecue and sipped sodas during what was expected to be a pro forma vote to select Mr. McCarthy as their nominee, he did an about-face, saying that he had concluded he could not unite the increasingly fractious Republican majority.
“I am not that guy,” said Mr. McCarthy, with his wife and family by his side, according to members who were in the room. Moments later, Mr. Boehner, who learned of Mr. McCarthy’s decision only minutes before he announced it, declared the vote postponed and the meeting adjourned even though there were two other candidates in the running, underscoring the weakness of the field.
Some Republicans, including Mr. Boehner and Mr. McCarthy, are pressing Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s nominee for vice president in 2012, to step up. Mr. Ryan, however, has repeatedly said he does not want the job, a point he reiterated Thursday even before his colleagues left the meeting.

We could go on but let's just stop right there for a moment and take note that this Republican-led Congress has been a veritable "hot mess" since taking majority in 2010.  Since assuming majority, the approval rating for Congress has plummeted to record lows and the federal government has either shut down or been faced with the threat of shut down numerous times.  This has largely been due to the Tea Party faction of the Republican Party who, although not the majority of the party, insist that the Party, and the rest of the Congress, adopt their position 100% of the time on every issue.  And their position is simple: as long as Barack Obama occupies the White House, the federal government must cease to function (of course they'll say it's not about Obama but the facts tend to suggest otherwise).

But turning back to the speakership, one has to wonder whether this Republican House, which has struggled over the past 5 years to do just about anything, is capable of getting their act together and rallying behind anyone, let alone the Vice Presidential candidate of the infamously unsuccessful Mitt Romney ticket. Ryan certainly has the respect of many Republican members of Congress, but the Tea Party (these days operating under the banner of the "Freedom Caucus") is a different bread of Republican.  They're not really interested in being led by anyone because that would mean working with others to actually make the government work, and that conflicts with their prime directive (see above).

So what's a Republican Party to do these days?

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