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Op/ed: House Majority Needs to Decide What’s Worth Fighting About

Former Public Policy Dean Says GOP Split Raises Worries About Congress’ Ability to Govern

By Donald F. Kettl

Members walk on the House floor in the House chamber during a roll call vote

U.S. House members walk on the floor of the chamber on Wednesday during a roll call vote on the motion to adjourn as the House met for a second day to elect a speaker and convene the 118th Congress.

Photo by AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

As U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California continued to woo 20 Republican hardliners blocking his bid for speaker of the House, a commentary published this morning in Barron’s by a University of Maryland researcher pointed to bigger problems that may loom for the Congress and the nation.

The U.S. faces uncertainty over a series of economic challenges at home and grave threats from Russia and others abroad, wrote Donald F. Kettl, professor emeritus and former School of Public Policy dean. Meanwhile, the intra-party brawl casts shadows on the future of the U.S. two-party system itself.

In the year’s first week, House Republicans taught us what a majority isn’t. It’s not the head count of members but the ability to pull together enough support to get something done—and to figure out what’s worth fighting about. So far the Republicans have failed that test.

Vote after vote starting Tuesday has produced the same result. A small but united faction of Republicans refuses to support Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker. Until the deadlock is broken, the House is unable to conduct any business.

But the real meaning of the votes for speaker isn’t so much who gets to lead. At stake in the bloody battles are the super-important issues down the road this year, the party’s signature items in the 2024 presidential campaign, and where to draw the battle lines between the parties.

Read the rest in Barron’s.



Schools & Departments:

School of Public Policy

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