Opinion: McCarthy’s House: shame in short supply

photo by: Creators Syndicate

Jamie Stiehm

In new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s, R-Calif., own words: “She reminds me of my friends from high school, that we’re going to stick together all the way through.”

That’s an operative quote from the man of small-town Bakersfield, California. He refers to despicable Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., a Donald Trump loyalist whom he embraced — literally — as he barely won the race to head the House Republicans.

“I will never leave that woman,” McCarthy told friends, quoted in The New York Times.

McCarthy is thinking of the narrowly divided House of Representatives in terms of high school.

Everything is personal. Nothing matters more than winning, whatever you give away in 15 votes over four grueling days.

The Californian, 57, does not bode well for the new Congress, where questions of global import already loom large. He may force an unlikely bond between President Joe Biden and, wait for it, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

First, Russia’s war on Ukraine is nearly a year old. Will Biden and the United States still lead as Ukraine’s staunchest ally in supplying weapons and training to soldiers?

McCarthy is shaky on Ukraine and has made no commitment. He doubts supporting a “blank check” to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says more military aid is vital to withstanding Russia’s winter offensive.

Balking at Biden’s foreign policy is bad enough. But McCarthy made a devil’s deal on the world economy and financial markets on raising the debt ceiling.

Trading for votes he needed from mutineers in his party, McCarthy pledged to obstruct raising the debt limit, which Congress must do every so often to pay the country’s bills. Usually (not always) this is done on a bipartisan basis.

Even now, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says Congress is past the point when it should have acted. The “full faith and credit” of the U.S. will be forever damaged if forced to default.

But a band of hard Right House Republicans made plain to McCarthy that the price of flipping their speaker votes was holding social spending hostage to raising the debt ceiling.

With her credibility as the House’s worst troublemaker, Greene acted as go-between and helped McCarthy reach the 216 votes he needed.

The last vote delivered a 216-212 midnight victory, served with a side of lost pride.

McCarthy divided the spoils, doling out plum committee posts to Greene and some congressmen who changed their votes, like Reps. Scott Perry, R-Pa., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

Soon, even Social Security could be on the chopping block. The hard Right base McCarthy succumbed to is truly radical — not “conservative.”

Conservative means to conserve and defend established traditions and institutions.

These threats — and McCarthy’s hard bargain — are entirely outside fair lines and rules of lawmaking. It’s beyond the bounds to use as pawns bills and programs that passed Congress and were signed into law.

The House rules are: no rules. Fabulist freshman liar Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., is proof. McCarthy needs his vote, ergo he’s in. Shame is in short supply.

We have yet to see the full story of McCarthy’s disorder in the House, with Greene joining his circle. The Southern sophomore, 48, with a Scarlett O’Hara complex — cunning and all — preens in C-SPAN camera range.

The House stripped Greene of her committees in 2021 for a threat of gun violence against three congresswomen of color. She gloated this gave her “free time” — which the former gym owner used to dish out daylong tweets.

Greene was kicked off Twitter for spreading lies about COVID-19 vaccines (recently restored.) Worse, she told a gala, if she had a hand in the Jan. 6 mob attack on the Capitol, “we would have won.”

At best, McCarthy acts like a fraternity (House) president. He’s got the handshake, smile, hair and oh yeah, fist pump.

This speaker seldom speaks without whining. He publicly joked about violence on then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., saying he might hit her with the House gavel if she handed it over.

Sophomoric or worse?

With McCarthy captive to his House hostage-takers, more mature minds may have to meet together and somehow reach a governing accord on big things.

Strange bedfellows, but at least they’re friends. Hold your applause: Biden and McConnell.

— Jamie Stiehm is a columnist with Creators Syndicate.


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