It’s always tough being in the minority party in Congress.
The best legislators in the minority party stay true to their basic raison d’être. They introduce and promote legislation in the interest of their home districts. They vote on all bills according to their political philosophy and of value to voters back home. After all, their job is to represent their local interests in the legislative process. It’s no accident one chamber is called the House of Representatives.
The worst legislators don’t have an interest in legislation or legislating. Their days as public servants are spent refusing to cooperate, i.e., compromise, with members of the other party, despite their minority status. Their focus becomes blocking any seeming advantage the majority might create from productive legislation. That’s what we’ve seen a lot of in recent years; the dreaded “gridlock.” If there is anything on which both parties agree (Woo Hoo! A bipartisan agreement!), it’s that nobody likes (or is willing to admit they like) “gridlock.” Unfortunately, right now republicans are those worst legislators.
Besides the huge effect on Congress’s legislative function, gridlock is also harmful to another important activity: investigation. Getting to the bottom of something that impacts the nation, with the possibility of correcting it. We all see that current legislation is at a standstill, but so is investigation.
The House of Representatives, often called “The People’s House,” passed a bill (H.R. 3233, May 19) to create an independent, outside Commission – with 5 members chosen by each party – to investigate the causes of the January 6 Capitol insurrection and create a report by December 31. Sort of like the 9/11 Commission. The bill passed the House with votes from all Democrats, plus 35 from minority republicans. Unfortunately, it failed in the Senate after getting only six republican votes.
The House responded May 30 by creating its own Select Committee composed of Representatives (seven Democrats and six republicans). As of this writing, all seven Democrats and one republican have been chosen for the Committee. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is weighing options whether to choose any other republicans to serve.
What’s a republican to do? Republicans don’t want to cooperate and allow some substantial outcome to be trumpeted as Democratic progress back home. But they don’t want to be branded again as “The Party of No” like a decade ago when they fought everything a popular president (Obama) wanted, purely on principle. And they don’t want to be part of any investigation that might involve former president trump for two reasons.
First, for all their fealty to the man, they want to put his crazy antics in the rearview mirror. He’s as unreliable to them as he is repugnant to Democrats. They want to run on his politics, but not rely on his unpredictable presence. Second, investigating his encouragement of the insurrection will vomit that up again and their own votes against certifying President Biden’s election. Not a good memory to dredge up. The Select Committee chair will have subpoena power and might even call the ex-president or other republicans, e.g., Kevin McCarthy, to testify about their words and actions on January 6.
It’s a narrow path for republicans. Obstruct any legislative progress, but retain some rationale that will comfort conservatives back home. Espouse trumpian ideas, but forget the ugly history of the last four years. Appear to honor your campaign promises, but not so much that you support Democratic bills.
For the time being, they’re stonewalling.