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For House Republicans to unite and move forward, reason must prevail over faction. Some refer to factions within the political parties as “tribalism.” The goal is really to diminish the merits of alternative policy perspectives. The reality is that both Republicans and Democrats form diverse coalitions in an attempt to contain America’s diverse political views within two political parties. By definition, each party is effectively its own form of coalition government.
Now, Republicans confront the reality of having far more government than we can afford as we debate the role of Speaker of the House. Speaker Kevin McCarthy wrestled for years to build the coalitions necessary to govern the narrow majority. Nevertheless, there were fatal flaws in his coalition, and it collapsed once a small group became convinced that the commitment to break the status quo on appropriations was either insincere or no longer on a path to being achieved. While their motion to vacate was foolish in my opinion, saying their action was purely personal or without merit willfully avoids the principled objection to failure.
As I and many others cautioned, the motion to vacate without a plan for what would happen next has in fact been disastrous. Frankly, the idea that their risky action to vacate the chair could somehow result in a more conservative coalition that would address the broken appropriations process, prevented Jim Jordan from restoring unity with a similar coalition to Speaker McCarthy’s. This, of course, exposed other factions who had other objectives with this crisis.
Now, my friend and colleague, Rep. Mike Flood from Nebraska, has a new proposal to restore unity to the Republican Party’s narrow majority in Congress. He is a good man, whose intentions in my estimation are pure. However, as I began, reason must prevail over faction. Unfortunately, Flood’s proposal formalizes the alternative outcome.
After violating this pledge to stop a threat to the status quo (Jim Jordan as Speaker with a plan), the system would insulate itself from the risk of further disruption. Regardless of intent, I anticipate this submission pledge will be coercive in the hands of the largest and most powerful faction in order to protect internal power for those who already have it.
Frankly, pledges typically fail or have significant drawbacks, but since there is one floating around, I’d like to offer an alternative proposal. We should agree that the next speaker be someone who commits to:
1. Never bringing an Omnibus bill to the floor. If an omnibus comes via discharge petition, I will remove the Appropriations chairman and resign as speaker.
2. No continuing resolution (CR) except the one envisioned by the Fiscal Responsibility Act that would extend well into the first quarter of 2024 and apply pressure to actually pass appropriations bills rather than another omnibus. If any alternative comes via discharge petition, I will remove the Appropriations Chair and resign as Speaker.
3. In a given fiscal year, if the primary appropriations bill for their jurisdiction ultimately never passes the House as standalone legislation, I will remove the respective cardinal as chair.
4. If a presidential or Senate supplemental funding request is even considered by the House, I will separate all supplemental funding requests by topic rather than accept the binary false premise of “this or nothing.”
Responsibility and authority must be aligned in order to provide accountability. Otherwise, there will simply be more excuses for the broken status quo.
As we debate the next speaker, everyone remains focused on the person, yet the focus must be on the plan to create change. Unfortunately, the current selection process is designed to focus on the person, rather than their plans.
My pledge seeks a commitment to a shared mission. It empowers a new speaker and provides accountability.
Republicans must resolve the agenda that unites the conference and provide accountability for results in order to ensure everyone is motivated to achieve it. This is the ongoing debate that seeks resolution.
Fortunately, reason can prevail. Getting everyone to trust a single person will be significantly harder than getting everyone to trust a shared mission. Whoever leads the mission should emerge as the next speaker and restore unity in our conference.