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Trading Shutdowns

 Several weeks ago, our government supposedly avoided shutting down, when in an 11th Hour maneuver the House of Representatives under the leadership of Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy passed a 45-day continuing resolution (CR) with a combination of some moderate Republicans and the majority of democratic lawmakers. Instead of the annual budget Congress was supposed to pass, this CR acts as a stop-gap until November 17th, continuing the funding of hundreds of vital programs operated by the executive branch, and hundreds of thousands of government employees receiving a paycheck while Congress finishes its appropriations process. This is an already dysfunctional situation, that is only found unalarming from how regularly it occurs. The situation this time around, however, is even worse, because as a direct result of passing the CR, Kevin McCarthy was successfully removed from his position as Speaker through an effort spearheaded by alleged sex trafficker Matt Gaetz

Congress has now been without a Sp​eaker for over two weeks. What might seem a bureaucratic hiccup to the House, is in fact, completely paralyzing to Congressional operations: no legislative work can be conducted without a Speaker. The position is elected by simple majority of the entire present voting body, and as we enter our third week, Republicans, holding a 220-212 majority in the House have shown themselves completely incapable of coalescing around a candidate, or allowing any deal to be brokered with the Democrats. Their first two, contenders were Rep. Scalise, “David Duke without the baggage,” and Rep. Jim Jordan, a January 6th supporting Trumper, who in his previous role wrestling coach at Ohio State, has been credibly accused of covering up the ongoing sexual assault of young men on the team. Apparently, these were the types of leaders most Republicans in Congress felt comfortable with, as they both received the overwhelming majority of support from their party but were still shy of winning the speakership in a full House vote.

After repeated failed, and increasingly embarrassing attempts, by Jordan to gain the position, House Republicans now have nine new hopefuls for the role, seemingly leaving the chamber even farther from a resolution to this utter breakdown in operations. This generalized dysfunction, in legislative affairs is one observers of the House are well familiar with, especially in the past several decades since the “Gingrich Revolution” of the 1990’s. However, it’s reached a fevered pitch at this point, where to a clownish and cartoonish degree, The House of Representatives has shown its complete and utter inability to be a governing body. 

The American people are, unsurprisingly, deeply frustrated with the continue soap opera consuming Congress, with more than 2/3 of those polled demanding the election of a speaker without delay. Support for resumption of House duties has majority support across the aisle, especially as violence in Israel and Gaza continues to escalate and another government shutdown looms in just a few weeks’ time while Congress remains completely impotent to these and other gathering crises.

Yet no solution seems quickly apparent. While a majority of voters rightfully blame Republicans for the current government breakdown, many Congressional members remain insulated from electoral backlash through gerrymandered districts, propaganda campaigns, and disinformation bubbles. So, rather than serve the interests of the people, many members of Congress use the position for their own petty gain, through service of the wealthy, donor class funding their reelection campaigns and comfortable lifestyles, even as the institution they make up crater in popularity and trust with the people. And even if the House can miraculously dig itself out of this pit by electing a Speaker, as they attempt to pass a budget, the fundamental tension between serving the donors, rather than the needs of the people remains intractable as ever. 

Frustratingly, there are no quick solutions to offer. The pernicious spread monied interests throughout our political system did not happen overnight, and it cannot be deconstructed overnight as well. It will taking a growing movement, organizing both political and economic power to shift the priorities of Congress and the special interests they serve. We need the combined economic heft and political might of a super-majority of America’s demanding a functional and responsive government. So, join us each Tuesday in growing solidarity as we align our political goals and construct an economic cudgel to make our government work for the people again!

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