John Feehery: GOP: It’s time for a talk
Posted on September 29, 2015
(Originally Published on The Hill)
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) has suggested that House Republicans have an extended discussion about the future before they vote for their next set of leaders.
It’s a good idea.
If ever a group of people needed to talk it out, it’s the members of the House Republican Conference.
They make up a little more than half of one-third of the federal government — and when they are fundamentally divided, as they currently seem to be, they are powerless to accomplish anything.
And yet, their loudest constituents expect them to deliver the moon and the stars, or at least to repeal ObamaCare and end funding for Planned Parenthood.
The next Speaker of the House, whoever he or she may be, first has to find a way to unite the conference. A House majority divided upon itself cannot stand as a bulwark against an ambitious president.
Emotions are raw after Rep. John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) departure. The Speaker’s loyalists are fuming about the idiocy of those who hastened his fall, while the Freedom Caucus believes that the moderates who make up the majority are Republican in name only.
Only a family discussion can truly align the goals of both sides.
Sometimes it is useful to have tempers flare, a la Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbon, but usually it’s better to calmly discuss what is realistically achievable in a way that pleases both sides.
The second item for discussion is the Senate. It’s far better to work with your colleagues in the upper chamber than to work against them, but that is usually the path less traveled for the rambunctious House.
The Senate is not going to change its rules to accommodate the whims of the loudest voices in the lower body, so the House majority should just insist on skillfully using the rules that are already in place, such as reconciliation.
Third, the House majority needs to discuss its ebbing power in the battle of the branches of government.
Sure, it has the power of the purse, but what good is that power if the only alternative is to shut the government down if the GOP doesn’t get its way? Better, increased oversight of the president and his agencies is the best way to bring more balance to the power relationship between the branches.
Ironically, the House has some big success in slowing down the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, thanks to Email-gate, using its committee oversight power. It has been far less successful in dinging President Obama on issues such as healthcare and immigration, mostly because the shutdown strategy backfired so spectacularly.
Earmarks, another way to rebalance the power between the branches, probably won’t come back until the Democrats retake the House sometime in the next decade. Getting rid of them has turned out to be
a real mistake.
Since earmarks have been banned, the approval rating of Congress has never cracked 20 percent. The administration spends the money how it wants, without any direction from those who supposedly have the power of the purse.
A reformed earmark process could restore the reputation of the House among the people and the administration, but I am not holding out any hope that will happen any time soon.
Finally, we have seen what happens to the House when it is bedeviled by intense partisanship. It loses power to the executive branch.
The more the right pushes to the right, the more power accrues to Obama.
A bipartisan committee process that builds up veto-proof majorities is the biggest threat to the power of the White House.
When the GOP meets for its family discussion, its members should focus less on settling scores and more on scoring some points against an increasingly powerful and unaccountable executive branch.