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MIKE MCKENNA: The Speaker Vote Reveals A Lot About The House’s Underlying Dysfunction

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Michael McKenna Contributor
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There can be no doubt that this week’s repeated and repetitive votes for speaker are not a particularly good look for the House Republicans. They look disorganized, unmoored and lost at sea.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that what we are seeing is a natural consequence of the party’s lack of agenda for the last six years. We are watching a political party trying to resolve its policy and procedural differences in real time, on television and on social media. It’s not pretty, and there is no way it can be pretty. (RELATED: PETER ROFF: Here’s One Key Reform Anti-McCarthy Republicans Should Revive From The History Books)

The contest over who will be the next speaker is a proxy for a constellation of issues that have simmered for a long time and finally came to a head during the spending bender (in which many congressional Republicans eagerly participated) over the last two years.

More ominously, it is driven by the disappointment (and attendant distrust) that many in the party harbor for their members of Congress.

For example, the last time the Republicans were in a moment like this, Paul Ryan wound up speaker. Most Republican voters now view that outcome as suboptimal at best (think the failure to repeal Obamacare). They would rather not have a rerun.

Neither would the House Republicans who have yet to embrace Mr. McCarthy. To prevent yet another lost decade for Republicans, they want to limit the power of the House leadership by restoring House process to what it was as recently as a generation ago.

Features of this include an emphasis on regular legislative order, where bills, especially appropriations bills, contain and directed towards a single purpose and are voted on individually after going through consideration by subcommittees, committees and by the committee of the whole under rules which allow for amendments (open rules).

They want separate votes on earmarks — which sound acceptable in theory, but in practice look like the sort of corruption routinely found in the not-yet-developed world.

They want to restore the motion to vacate to its historic form — any member can make a motion to vacate the chair at pretty much anytime. They want to make sure that issues about which members care (term limits or a balanced budget) are given a vote on the floor.

To enforce those restorations, they want seats on the House Committee on Rules, which is directly responsible for the evisceration of regular order over the last three decades.

As recently as 30 years ago, none of that would have been considered exceptional. But the House of Representatives has become so intellectually and procedurally desiccated that today they seem positively revolutionary.

There is no doubt that part of the problem with the current batch of rebels is that some of them are, unfortunately, social media creatures who have a pathological need for attention. It is also unfortunately true that many of them will not vote for Congressman-elect Kevin McCarthy irrespective of what power he is willing to restore to individual members.

That, however, does not vitiate the value of what the holdouts have negotiated. Many of those who support Mr. McCarthy say that they favor a return to regular order and a recrudescence of the autonomy of individual Members.

If that is truly the case, they need to support what the holdouts have achieved, even if they can’t or won’t support the same candidate for speaker.

One final thought bears notice. Whatever the talking heads in the legacy media think or say, this is not an embarrassing moment, a threat to national security, or any such nonsense.

Rather, this is what genuine representative government looks like. People disagree — sometimes about goals, and sometimes about the ways to achieve them. Then they seek commonalities and advance.

That is the entire purpose of the exercise.

Michael McKenna is the president of MWR Strategies. He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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