Sunday, March 24, 2024

A chance for sanity?

 It took longer than I expected but Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-Ga.) has filed a motion to vacate the Speaker’s chair on Friday. The motion threatens Speaker Mike Johnson’s leadership of the House just after the lower body managed to put together a deal to avoid a government shutdown.

From his first day in the office, I assumed that Speaker Johnson’s days were numbered. The fragmented Republican caucus has empowered its lunatic fringe because no one faction is strong enough to garner the votes to elect a Speaker on its own. As a result, concessions to MGT’s MAGA stalwarts and the Freedom Caucus left the Speaker’s office much weaker than in the past. Now, the bills are coming due as MGT calls for a vote to remove Johnson from the post.

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But the Democrats have an opportunity, if they choose to take it. Democrats could rescue Johnson and exact a price for doing so. Democrats could join with moderate Republicans to form a coalition of the sane to preserve Johnson as Speaker, rather than voting against him as they did with Kevin McCarthy last October

In return for saving him, Democrats should insist that Johnson allow votes on much-needed bills such as the budget bills, aid to Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel, and immigration reform. Johnson may be willing to deal now because, despite his best efforts, he has not been able to please the Republican radicals.

Johnson’s mortal sin was helping to pass a budget deal to try to avert a government shutdown. Some Republicans wanted to exact more concessions, and some members of the Republican kamikaze caucus apparently think that a government shutdown would hurt Joe Biden, but I’m convinced that others want to cause a default in a misguided attempt to reduce spending. Either course would probably be devastating for Republican electoral chances in November since Republican fingerprints would be all over the shutdown and/or default. I think some Republicans won’t vote for any budget bill. (Thomas Massie, I’m looking in your direction.)

The problem is that some Democrats think that they can make better use of the upheaval in the Republican ranks for partisan gain. For example, Johnny Palmadessa, a Democratic strategist, speculated on Threads that Hakeem Jeffries, the House Minority Leader, might become the next Speaker. 

Let me just say that anyone who seriously thinks Republicans will make Jeffries Speaker (before January) is probably smoking crack or some other illicit and mind-altering substance. The Republicans may be divided now, but they will unite to keep the speakership in GOP hands.

Other Democrats may favor letting the Republicans deal with the internal factional fighting themselves on the grounds that stoking Republican divisions is likely to help Democrats in November. The problem with this strategy is that it doesn’t get things done. Bills need to be passed and Democrats need to be the adults in the room if Republicans can’t run the House. While Congress dithers, Ukraine and Israel are running low on ammunition, China is eyeing Taiwan, and the border crisis continues.

I’m not a fan of Mike Johnson or his work as Speaker, but the odds are that if he is ousted by Team MGT, we will end up with someone worse. Speaker Jim Jordan, anyone?) A successful House coup by MGT would also elevate her stature in the GOP, something that would not be good for the country or the Republican Party.

These are very partisan times, but there is an opportunity to form a bipartisan coalition to get things done. Hopefully, Democrats learned their lesson from the chaos after the ouster of Kevin McCarthy because Republicans did not.

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