In addition to all of the intrigue surrounding Kevin McCarthy's withdrawal from the Speaker's race, there is this: Our House of Representatives is incapable of governing.
They would be capable of governing if they agreed to approach things in a bipartisan way, but the GOP caucus as a whole has decided they're going to go it alone, and pretend Democrats simply do not exist in their chamber.
But even with a large majority, they can't even do that. The reason they cannot rests with the right-wing extremists forming the so-called Freedom Caucus.
Think Progress has obtained copies of the document the Freedom Caucus is circulating to anyone considering a run for the Speakership. As you might imagine, it's a John Birch Society wish list.
Yesterday, Politico published the House Freedom Caucus “questionnaire” which it described as pushing for “House rule changes.” The document does do that. But it also does a lot more. It seeks substantive commitments from the next speaker that would effectively send the entire country into a tailspin.
For example, the document seeks a commitment from the next speaker to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The United States will reach the debt limit on November 5. If the limit is not raised prior to that point, the United States could default on its obligations. This could have disasterous effects on the economy of the United States and the entire world. In 2013, a Treasury Department report found “default could result in recession comparable to or worse than 2008 financial crisis.”
Cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is extremely unpopular, even among Republicans. These programs are sacrosanct to most Democratic members of Congress. There is effectively no chance that President Obama or Senate Democrats — both of whom would need to support such legislation — would agree to “structural entitlement reforms” in the next month under these kind of conditions.
The House Freedom Caucus essentially wants to make it impossible for the next speaker to raise the debt ceiling. But that is just the beginning.
The House Freedom Caucus also wants the next speaker to commit to numerous conditions on any agreement to avoid a government shutdown:
The government will run out of money on December 11. Unless additional funding is approved before that date, the government will shut down.The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to not funding the government at all unless President Obama (and Senate Democrats) agree to defund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and a host of other priorities. This is essentially the Ted Cruz strategy which prompted at 16-day shutdown in 2013. This would now be enshrined as the official policy of the Speaker Of The House.
The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to oppose any “omnibus” bill that would keep the government running. Rather, funding for each aspect of government could only be approved by separate bills. This would allow the Republicans to attempt to finance certain favored aspects of government (the military), while shuttering ones they view as largely unnecessary (education, health).
There's an easy enough answer to this. John Boehner simply has to craft a resolution which will keep the government open and the debt ceiling raised through 2017. It will require Democrats. As soon as that resolution is passed, it will be incumbent upon Congress to do...nothing.
There are plenty of reasons to do something constructive, but the Republicans in Congress cannot manage such things on their own. So keep the government open and the debt ceiling raised with the assistance of Democrats, and let the rest of it wait until the bums are tossed out or they come to their senses. One or the other.
In Clinton's last year, they impeached him to keep government from functioning properly. They can't dig up the same scandals on Obama, so they're just choosing not to work, and to bow before the billionaire's toadies comprising the so-called Freedom Caucus.
If we defund anything, it ought to be the salaries for Congressmen who can't manage to do their jobs but instead wave their arms around and shout a lot about Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. In the meantime, let's just neutralize the lot of them.