Politics & Media
Oct 11, 2023, 06:27AM

House Hangs Fire as Mideast Blazes

Because the kids need recess.

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Gaza’s going up, but Matt Gaetz had a neat idea and now the House is paralyzed. Recess, as they say, was declared for Congress’ lower chamber right after the fun and games got out of hand and the country abruptly stopped having a speaker. Post-ejection, representatives tried to process. They thought about what everybody had just seen and wondered how the hell it happened. “After the chair was vacated last week, members began to meet in their various conferences… I think it was an excellent way to spend time in a post-mortem of how we got in the situation,” recalls a participant.

The House remains shut down while the conference finds a way out of its current headless condition. House Republicans are supposed to meet on Wednesday morning and decide the party’s choice for speaker. When last seen, some in the gang wanted a rule change so that the winning candidate would have to win the votes of all the House Republicans, not just a simple majority. Either way money for Ukraine and Israel must wait to be voted on.

Kevin McCarthy was booted last week because one member, acting alone and at will, can make the House vote on whether or not the speaker stays in the job. The ejector seat rule remains unchanged, so anybody the Republican congresspeople manage to pick will be living dangerously. Process as it might, the conference hasn’t managed to do anything about this basic problem. Still, the processing has its value. GOP House members saw their conference skid into a freak event, a combination car crash and public burning. Better everybody should regroup, feel like themselves again, and reconsider. (Self-care. Because sometimes the world is having its crisis, but you’re having your crisis.) They’re politicians in shock, and shock’s no good for decisions.

The catch here is that the Republicans made the crisis they’re recovering from. They shocked themselves, an experience shared by teen goths, small boys near sockets, and now the House Republican conference, which has shorted out a chamber of government because of conflicts waged among men who wear red ties and talk loudly on podcasts.

After McCarthy’s downfall, the first squawk from the tribe was to have Donald Trump, private citizen, step in and become the new speaker, an idea that El Curveball toyed with for a few days. Now the contest is between a second-rate Trump substitute and a second-rate McCarthy substitute. Jim Jordan, Trump’s endorsee for the post, takes on Steve Scalise, who spent years raising money and cultivating colleagues but was outdone at both by McCarthy, his slickass rival. The rival still hangs about and may or not command donor loyalty; with that point settled favorably, the conference could shamble back McCarthy’s way.

Jordan looks like the best positioned candidate, given that he’s MAGA’s clear favorite while his opponent is just one of the two needledick guys from Animal House. Seeing the House speakership go MAGA would also make sense in a rough, strap-together-a-broken-arm sort of way. The Plan A for dumbasses, Trump as speaker, offered this failsafe: no GOP congressman would try ejecting Trump. The Plan B, to elect somebody picked by Trump, relies on the big man’s willingness to retaliate if his Mini-Me gets the ejector-seat treatment. Not exactly Article 5 of the NATO treaty, but a party must work with available unifying elements.

As long as one member, all on their own, can force the speaker into the ejector seat, whoever’s speaker just has to hope every single member of his tribe is too scared to give it a shot. Trump would be safe, and maybe a Trump-anointed figure, the designated Trump Mini-Me, would be safe too. Let the needledicks worry about bringing money in and spreading it around. By force of Trump the conference would hang together, though just enough to have a speaker.

Or House Republicans might align their factions sufficiently to raise the ejector seat threshold and make everybody’s life saner and less apocalyptic. But Trump mojo seems a more likely solution. A system running on diluted Trump mojo, with Jim Jordan getting bottles first off the truck and hoping they do him some good—it doesn’t make sense, but for Republicans it makes more sense than self-preservation.


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