Verba Volant, Scripta Manent

The Hill News

Verba Volant, Scripta Manent

The Hill News

Verba Volant, Scripta Manent

The Hill News

Congress falls into chaos


On Oct. 25, the House of Representatives elected its most recent speaker, Rep. Mike Johnson, a little-known social conservative from Lousiana. The embattled election sparked continued concerns about a fractured Congress’ ability to fund itself.  

Johnson’s elevation followed three weeks of uncertainty and infighting among Republicans following the Oct. 3 ousting of former speaker Kevin McCarthy.  

The vote that intitally ousted Mcarthy was prompted by Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, and received the support of every House Democrat and a small group of far-right Republicans, pushing it just over the finish line,creating a new Congressional precedent. 

Adding to the tension, McCarthy, during his time as speaker,  brokered multiple standoff-ending deals with President Joe Biden, often to the dismay of his Republican colleagues. Many far-right Republicans viewed the recent temporary spending measure as the last straw and decided that a new speaker would be the best way to get what they wanted. Yet, the main supporters of the ousting came from the proposer’s main opponents: Democrats. 

Many representatives made clear why McCarthy needed to be removed from office. According to Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, whom Gaetz went to for support, “Kevin McCarthy is a very weak speaker. He has brought the United States and millions of Americans to the brink, waiting until the final hour to keep the government open.”  

It is clear the temporary funding measure that passed Congress was not wildly popular with Democrats. The bill notably lacked the funding for Ukraine they vied for and multiple stopgap measures initially placed by the Senate. However, any deal less favorable to Democrats would most likely have been denied by House Republicans, forcing a government shutdown.  

Dylan Jennings, instructor of history and social sciences, commented on the effects of the possible shutdown. “The government shutting down means you have less people working, less people getting money, less people spending money in the economy, and if people aren’t spending money, the economy will slow down,” Jennings said. “It will start to enter a recession.” 

Now, with a shutdown looming once again, the House finds itself with no speaker and no viable solution for a long-term budget. Any speaker who is voted in will face immense pressure from both parties and a new reality: that a wrong decision could mean another ousting.  

Nevertheless, multiple candidates have already stepped up to the plate. Republican nominee Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La, is poised to face off against Democratic nominee Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-NY, in a process that will most likely mirror that of McCarthy’s induction, with multiple rounds of voting and more impossible concessions.  

However, the growing pressure of a government shutdown may speed up the process. Nicholas Malinak, history fellow, pointed this out, stating, “All bills have to go through both the House and the Senate before the President can sign them into law —  that means that Congress is unable to finalize any new laws until a Speaker is elected.”  

This fact may force some groups in the House to make compromises in order to accomplish the House’s ultimate goal: saving the economy from ruin.  

Along with uncertainty about the economy, questions have been raised about Mike Johnson’s political past. Johnson was instrumental in the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results, leading the search for signatures for a legal brief in support of a Texas lawsuit challenging the election results in four battleground states. Johnson later voted against certifying the 2020 election and spread conspiracy theories rooted in discredited claims about voting irregularities.  

Some feel that Johnson’s election to Speaker further cemented the Republican party’s lurch to the right. Bates Bland ‘24 expresses his concern over the election, explaining, “I think its hard having a lesser known person lead the second most powerful body in the US congress, especially, as I feel it was made as an appeasment to radical house republicans. I would have preferred to see a more centrist candidate elected who can focus focus on bipartisan issues.”   

However, if the recent events of the House serve as an example for the future, then such a result seems largely unlikely. The situation remains unclear, and all that’s left to do is wait and see. 

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