The Republicans’ winning control of the House of Representatives, as I indicated in an earlier column, might turn out to be more of a liability than a benefit to the Party. I can see how I could be wrong about that, but I’m sticking with that prediction.
Polling now shows how the American people responded to the way the Speakership of the House was decided in the first week of January. Most Republicans approved of what they saw, but more than a third of Republican voters disapproved. And it should give the Republicans pause that, also, 61% of Independent voters disapproved.
Not only was it messy, but also McCarthy gained the Speakership by giving control of the House to the very kind of MAGA Republicans who lost winnable seats in the midterms because the American majority was turned off by their extreme Trumpian politics.
Going forward, will Americans see the Republicans using their control of the House to get things done done that the American people want? Or will the Republicans simply wage political war to damage their opponents?
(Polling in their first week shows that majorities of Republicans see the House Republicans as “strengthening their power” while “neglecting the American people.”)
As a legislative body, the House will accomplish nothing these two years without its being agreed to by the Senate and signed by the President, both of which are controlled by the Democrats. Therefore, accomplishing things for the American people will require bipartisan cooperation. And the polls show that 70% of Americans want the Republicans to find areas of agreement with the Democrats, so that the nation can move forward.
But it is already clear that the Republican-controlled House has rejected the route those 70% want. Even in the first week, the Republicans have shown that their choice is political war:
• The Republicans are already moving toward impeachments of the Democratic administration, starting with the Secretary of Homeland Security and apparently heading toward the Attorney General and the President. There’s been talk of this for months but — remarkably — without anyone making the slightest case that any of these targets of impeachment have committed “high crimes” or “misdemeanors.”
How will this play politically with the electorate?
Maybe the Republicans can make such impeachments pay politically: back before the 2016 election, the “Bengasi” hearings apparently wrought political harm to Hillary Clinton, even though those endless hearings never showed Clinton guilty of any wrongdoing.
On the other hand, perhaps the American majority will resent the House Republicans’ focusing on smearing their opponents instead of doing the people’s business.
(The same questions loom over the Republicans’ announced intention of shining a spotlight on Hunter Biden’s troubles, although it is not clear that there’s anything of the public interest involved.)
• Despite the abortion bans being opposed by 61% of the American people, and despite abundant evidence that this issue hurt the Republicans in the midterm elections, this Republican House is already working to nationalize their anti-abortion position.
• Will Americans reward the Republicans for forming a subcommittee to “investigate the weaponization of the federal government” — which is evidently intended to counterattack the legal system on Trump’s behalf, abetting Trump’s war on the justice system that’s moving to hold him (and his inner circle) accountable for evident crimes?
(Again, without a shred of evidence that either the FBI or the Department of Justice has conducted themselves other than “by the book.”)
Or will the electorate punish the Republicans launching an unprecedented attack on “ongoing investigations”—with officials being subpoenaed to testify on matters that have always been off-limits to congressional inquiry? Will they notice the abuse of power involved in the efforts of some Republicans -- who are themselves in some criminal jeopardy regarding what some juries have already judged a “criminal conspiracy” – trying to protect themselves from “the Rule of Law”?
This will be another test of how well the American people can differentiate between accusations backed by evidence and those with no factual foundation whatever.
When the battle is joined over this abuse of power to protect those who have attacked our constitutional order, will the Democrats — who now seem readier than in years past to call out bad Republican behavior -- prove capable of besting the propagandists of the right?
• The Republicans now adopted rules to prevent the United States from paying its bills for expenses already incurred. They will try to sell the American people on the idea that they are trying to rein in big spending, whereas what they threaten is the economic disaster of turning the United States into a deadbeat.
Will the American people realize that no one will an ounce of patriotism would ever hold a gun to the nation’s head and say “If you don’t give us what we want we will send the American economy into the ditch?”
(And when what the Republicans seek to extort is the cutting, or gutting, of Social Security and Medicare — two wildly popular programs — what will voters conclude?)
One thing seems clear. For the next two years, the House — which is a legislative body — will not accomplishing anything legislatively unless the more responsible Republicans join forces with the Democrats to override the Republicans — the worst of their members -- who now dominate the House Republican caucus.