If your troops won’t follow, can you really be considered a leader? It’s a question the Republicans need to start asking themselves now that the polls are showing a GOP takeover of the U.S House of Representatives after the next election is highly likely.
The man thought most likely to be the next Speaker is California’s Kevin McCarthy, currently the House Minority Leader. He could have had the job once before, when former House Speaker John Boehner stepped down but, for reasons that are still not exactly clear, Mr. McCarthy eventually decided not to pursue it. With a new GOP majority in the offing, the job seems his for the taking.
We cannot help but wonder if that is such a good idea. The recent troubles with the now-passed infrastructure bill leave us wondering if Mr. McCarthy’s got the stuff to hold his members in line when it counts.
Ordinarily, infrastructure legislation is not controversial. It may be unpopular among the groups concerned about spending, but, in the main, it’s the kind of thing people expect Congress to do. The $1.2 trillion package backed by President Joe Biden and pushed hard by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was different – and not just because it took considerable liberty with the meaning of the term “infrastructure.”
The bill was stuck in part because it caused a civil war in Mrs. Pelosi’s party. The big government socialists represented by AOC and the rest of The Squad repeatedly said they wouldn’t vote for it without also being promised a chance to vote on the estimated $3 trillion-plus reconciliation bill that sets up the framework for the expansion of Medicaid, federally funded government-run childcare, the Green New Deal and a host of other programs that, when enacted, would remake America into something uncomfortably close to a European-style welfare state.
This is a serious matter. Stopping the infrastructure bill –a lousy piece of legislation that does more to get cars off the road than it does to build roads and bridges America desperately needs — was helping to stop the reconciliation. To put it another way, blocking its passage was akin to the defensive line keeping the offense from moving the football far enough downfield to kick a game-winning field goal.
Under “Coach McCarthy,” the GOP not only didn’t hold the line, but the 13 Republicans who voted for it also made its passage possible. The Democrats, left to their own devices, did not have enough “Aye” votes to get it through.
Mr. McCarthy’s inability to keep his members from handing Mrs. Pelosi a victory represents a failure of leadership. Sure, when you’re in charge, you get the blame for many things that aren’t really your fault, but an awful lot was riding on this vote. Now Mr. Biden, Mrs. Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and The Squad are much closer to enacting the Bernie Sanders agenda. The stakes are now even higher. Perhaps it’s time for other members of the Republican conference to consider running for Speaker.
Mr. McCarthy shouldn’t get the job just because he’s the next in line. He should get it because he’s the best man or woman to lead the GOP’s effort to stop the Democratic agenda from moving even an inch further. If he can’t unite his members around that cause, it’s time to find someone who can.