Gongol.com Archives: January 2023

Brian Gongol

January 3, 2023

News Speak to us

The House of Representatives is formed by the Constitution in Article I, Section 2 -- prior to the Supreme Court (Article III), the Senate (Article I, Section 3), or the Presidency (Article II) -- and should accordingly be expected to act as the primary locomotive of the entire Federal government. And it is having trouble selecting a leader. On three separate ballots of its first day in session, the House delivered no candidate a majority of the votes for Speaker. That hasn't happened in a century. ■ The Speaker of the House is named by the Constitution before the Chief Justice or the President; so foundational is the job supposed to be. It has always been a political job, of course. But while the Chief Justice must be appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and the President must be chosen through the Electoral College, the House is free to choose whomever it wants to serve as Speaker. ■ This raises an interesting thought exercise: How might things run differently if the House, which is so narrowly divided on party grounds that the swing votes could fit in a Kia Sportage, chose a fair-minded outsider as Speaker? ■ Justin Amash, who not long ago left the House, has offered himself as an outside candidate for the job. His would be an unlikely candidacy, for sure -- he already bears deep partisan scars from his time in office. But he does make the valid point that Congress needs some process reforms to function better: Unencumbered bills, committee order, and an open amendment process. ■ America would probably benefit from having a charismatic technocrat as Speaker of the House: Someone likable, a bit nerdy, earnestly committed to fairness, and above all, obsessed with the long-term good of the House as an institution. We have people like that in America; many of them are former governors, including several Republicans. ■ It's extremely unlikely to happen, of course, bordering on the impossible. But given the small group of holdouts keeping the Republican majority from electing their presumptive candidate, it wouldn't take that many Democratic votes to put a mild-mannered technocrat into the role, if mainstream Republicans could find a consensus outsider to put forward. Could the House of Representatives function like a world-class deliberative body with someone like Mitch Daniels or Rick Snyder holding the gavel? Perhaps in a parallel universe somewhere, they're about to find out.

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