Hang Tough Andy Biggs!

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Back on December 1, 2022, The Prickly Pear was one of the first publications to note that the very narrow Republican victory in the House gave significant leverage to those who oppose Kevin McCarthy as Speaker and those that want significant rule changes in the House. We noted this was a historic rarity that could prove very important.

We wrote that this may make Andy Biggs of Arizona the most powerful House member since John Rhodes.

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What is odd is that while we noticed this, apparently Kevin McCarthy and Republican Party leaders did not. They could have been consulting in private for weeks and had this settled. But, they were not listening to grassroots leaders like Andy Biggs.

Many Republicans seem intent on returning the Republican Party to its pre-Trump era, ignoring the populist revolt. The irony is the populist revolt stems precisely from this kind of anti-democratic behavior and the snubbing of non-establishment views.

The impasse has revealed itself as we suspected as a small group of conservatives is using their leverage, trying to get some important reforms on the way the House operates.

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The agony of making these rules changes is causing some screaming right now but it is essential to the health of our politics that this gets done. We hope Andy Biggs and the Freedom caucus hang tough.

The Wall Street Journal normally has a pretty sane editorial page, but like others, they say this fight is an embarrassment and shows Republicans really don’t want to govern. The argument is also cleverly framed so that compromise means only that party rebels must concede but leadership does not need to.

The fact is they do want to govern. They want to have a real governing process, not a sham process as is the present case. What we have right now is a nondemocratic process that severely limits the ability of individual Congressmen to actually represent the needs and opinions of the voters. Congress has failed to follow its own rules for over 20 years. Congress can’t even produce a budget!

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Citizens rarely get to vote directly on matters (democracy) but we do vote for our representatives in Congress (a republic). Members of Congress are supposed to represent us. Yet the recent process of omnibus legislation shows how hollow that promise really is.

Our representatives hardly had any input into the process. If that is true, what is the point of  Congressional elections?

What really happens is party leadership works in secret with lobbyists, who then write legislation of thousands of pages, worth trillions in spending, that is presented just before Christmas, with a demand to sign without reading, sign without input, and sign without debate, and sign without input from us, the constituents. Just to make the process even less democratic, it is introduced at one in the morning with a vote at 5 am, just as every member is pressured by the holiday schedule and the desire to get home.

You must vote for the whole blob or the entire government will be shut down. Just do what the party leadership has decided and shut up!

What kind of process is that?  How the hell can our representatives “represent” us given they are forced to vote for a giant legislative blob without any input?

The Freedom Caucus has every right to call for an end to House rules which permit such shenanigans. Current rules make a tragic farce out of the power of the purse, the chief power the Congress has to control a runaway government.

Moreover, Senate Republican leadership under Mitch McConnell went out of his way to cut whatever budgetary influence our newly elected Representatives had in the House. This was a betrayal of the highest order.

We have no pick in mind for Speaker of the House. The particular personality is not our chief concern. We are concerned about changing the rules under which Congress operates. We need to get back to voting on singular pieces of legislation that can be examined and debated by our representatives. If McCarthy can deliver that, we would be for him as well as anyone else. If he can’t, he should go. As of this writing, he has failed eleven times so even concessions don’t seem enough to put him over the line!

Is there not a compromise candidate the establishment can accept other than McCarthy? Yes, rule compromises have been made, but many don’t trust McCarthy to fulfill those reform promises.

That concern about McCarthy is not without merit. In the past, he has never shown any inclination to change the rules and he snubbed every attempt after the recent election until forced to concede on some issues. He even moved into the Speaker’s office before being selected. But since he has not been a prominent leader in the reform movement, it would be best if someone else was found. Like many others, we are not sure he can be trusted.

Trump has suggested rebels take their victory on rule changes and trust McCarthy. Trump trusted party officials himself. How did that work out? His endorsement seems not to have done the trick either, which diminishes further his already shrinking power within the party.

Yes, democratic processes can look confused and childish at times. Democracy is a raucous process. However, reforming House rules to give more power back to individual Congress members is worth the spectacle.

This unsightly kerfuffle is not the “end of democracy” and a failure to govern. It is the restoration of representative democracy in order to govern.

 

 

 

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