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National Review
National Review
21 Oct 2023
The Editors

NextImg:House Republicans Need to End the Chaos

The core competency of the House Republican caucus has become preventing anyone from getting elected speaker of the House.

After three ballots on the House floor where he lost a slightly larger number of defectors each try, the GOP conference voted to dump Representative Jim Jordan as its speaker designee.

It hurt Jordan that, as a founder of the House Freedom Caucus, he so often rejected pragmatic arguments and half-a-loaf deals and then, once he wanted to be speaker, argued that everyone needed to compromise and come together around his bid. Also, an intense pressure campaign from Jordan’s backers in the conservative media backfired among members who felt bullied and, in some cases, had their families threatened.

We were critical of Gaetz’s initial move against McCarthy, and the ensuing two weeks have only confirmed the nihilistic stupidity of the Florida congressman’s alliance with House Democrats to blow up what turned out to be a crucial but fragile consensus in the caucus behind McCarthy. Remember the impeachment inquiry? Neither does anybody else. Have you seen a resolution on the House floor supporting Israel and condemning Hamas, which would command broad majority support but isolate and pressure the Squad? No, of course not.

The Republican Party, instead, has spent its time advertising its own dysfunction.

The answer remains to elect a speaker, which will require nearly all Republicans resolving to support whoever has the majority support of the conference. The dynamic so far is that various factions aren’t willing to do that if other factions won’t as well. Perhaps in the next round of candidates there will be someone who has so few natural enemies and is so removed from ill feelings among the supporters of the three previous candidates that he can get beyond this prisoner’s dilemma.

If that proves impossible, Republicans may have to govern with Patrick McHenry remaining as speaker pro tempore. There is a plausible argument that the law under which McCarthy designated McHenry gives him wider latitude to run the House than he’s currently exercising. Regardless, the House makes its own rules, and a majority can probably consider and pass legislation if it has the will to do so.

That the party could get to this place is a damning indictment, a tale of lack of cohesiveness and misplaced priorities. The famous story is that Benjamin Franklin, when asked after he exited the Constitutional Convention what form of government was decided on, replied, “A republic if you can keep it.” The voters gave Republicans a House majority, and so far they aren’t demonstrating much interest in keeping it.