As the GOP members of the House of Representatives continue to flail around trying to find a solution to their problem with electing a speaker, they seem to be trying the same thing of having a candidate forum and selecting a nominee only to have that person withdraw because they cannot get the 217 votes needed on the House floor to win. The difference is that the time taken to find a nominee and having his candidacy collapse is getting shorter and shorter, which is progress of a sort. Late Tuesday night, they voted for Mike Johnson to be their latest nominee. He beat out the Byron Donalds in the final round by 128 to 29 with 49 not voting for either. That means that another five were not even present in the room. They will vote Wednesday morning to see whether he can get the necessary 217 votes or meet the same fate as the previous nominees and have to withdraw. That Johnson got just 129 votes does not augur well for him.
If there is yet another failure, I think they need to try something different and so I am offering a modest proposal. Despite the title of this post suggesting that it is some kind of Swiftian satire, I offer it in all earnestness as a way out of the impasse.
The problem as I see it is that there are many members of the Republican conference who have specific demands of the nominee that they are unwilling to budge from and serve to automatically disqualify a candidate who does not agree with them. But these demands are idiosyncratic and hence all over the map. Some oppose aid to Ukraine. Some oppose raising the debt ceiling. Some want a federal abortion ban. Some oppose transgender people serving in the military. Some want to cut the budget by a certain amount. Some want investigations of the attorney general Merrick Garland and the FBI. And so on. The list is long.
The current system first selects a person and it is only after that process is it learned that there are sufficient disqualifiers to prevent that person getting the 217 votes.
My suggestion is that all the GOP members first be asked what issues are non-negotiable for them and then put those all on a spreadsheet, with the members listed down the side and their demands listed across the top, and the appropriate boxes checked. That way, any candidate knows right from the beginning if too many people will vote against them because of their views and what they need to change in order to get that number below the critical number of five. Then one needs to only vote for those from that reduced pool of people who qualify to find a nominee who can get 217 votes. This will save a lot of time.
Why am I suggesting a way for Republicans to get out of the mess that they have created for themselves? It is because I am a nerd who likes to solve problems and hates to see people trying the same futile thing over and over again. That overcame my schadenfreude at seeing a party that has become a home for hate become a circular firing squad.
But another reason is that there is no chance that my plan will be adopted, even if it is seen as workable. That is because it requires people to state their objections right up front and will commit them to vote for a candidate who meets their demands. That leaves out a hidden factor in these dealings and that is that some members at least like to use their votes as leverage with a nominee to get things that benefit themselves, such as plum committee appointments, choice offices, funding for projects in their districts, and so on. This is what Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene did back in January when Kevin McCarthy sought their votes. Committing in advance as to how they will vote will take away the main bargaining chip they have. It also leaves out those who seek to undermine a candidate that meets their demands but is not the one they really want. For example, there are strong suspicions that allies of McCarthy are trying to get him back in office and are tanking whoever becomes the nominee, even as McCarthy pretends to be a team player and votes for the nominee.
I can come up with solutions to some problems. I am helpless when greed, ambition, ego, and self-seeking are part of the mix.
Stephen Colbert comments on the speaker fiasco, Jenna Ellis’s plea deal, and SSAT’s startling linguistic discovery.