The ruthless debates inside the Republican party plunged the country into uncertainty as they rule both Congress chambers and most state governor seats. The current dispute over the position of Speaker of the House of Representatives, the third official in the U.S. presidential line of succession, reflects the advance of a radicalization process of the majority that has paralyzed the Legislature.
The surprising withdrawal of Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), second in charge behind outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), from the race to lead the GOP bench means that the most conservative sector in the Party does not want anything to do with the previous leader, which is accused of putting politics over principles.
This is a group of Republicans mostly elected in 2010 with the Tea Party agenda of eliminating Obamacare, reducing the size of the government and restricting immigration, among other plans. They represent the base’s discontent over the fact that, although they are the majority in Congress, they have been unable to move their program forward or even stop President Obama’s executive actions, which they deem an abuse of executive power.
With McCarthy gone, the road is clear for Congressman Daniel Webster (R-FL) to obtain the 218 votes needed to become Speaker of the House. He already has 40 members of the most conservative group on his side, the same people who made Boehner’s life miserable during his tenure. They hope that the new leader will put their agenda up for a vote. Still, if he didn’t have the votes to win before, he won’t have them now either.
In practice, this means that the next negotiations over the debt ceiling and the federal budget may lead to a government shutdown as this inflexible group takes power. It may also bring to the floor the most retrograde proposals on immigration, regardless of the fact that they are unlikely to pass. More acts of ideological purity can be expected than projects with a chance to become law.
Congress is designed for negotiation, to allow legislators to attend the interests of the majority of the American people. Yesterday, the conservative legislative sector who considers that negotiating equals treason rose up with a victory that may harm Congress’ capability to function even more.