You’ve probably heard of him, but back in the 1930s, there was a very popular humorist named Will Rogers. He opined often about the sad state of affairs in Washington, D.C., even back then, and referred to the Senators and Congresspersons as “the hired help.” At one point in time, there was quite a bit of extra turmoil in our nation’s capital, leading Will to famously say, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” After watching some of the proceedings taking place in the House of Representatives this week, I’m fairly certain a modern-day Rogers could have been a Republican and still made the same statement.

That’s not to say the Democrats are not currently just a tad bit disorganized too, but members of that party have certainly been sticking together when it comes to voting for a new Speaker of the House.

Perhaps you, as I, had nothing better to do for a couple of hours this week and sporadically tuned into C-Span to watch our elected officials in action. It seems that when a new Congress convenes, as happened January 3rd, not one bit of actual business can be conducted until the Speaker is chosen. That vote is normally a formality. Whichever party won the most seats the previous November nominates its leader and that person wins the election for Speaker.

Any infighting that may have arisen had already taken place behind the scenes. The Democrats and Republicans both hold a Caucus, and while it’s not unusual for there to be a couple of candidates’ names put forth in those enclaves, the custom for many years has been for the members of each party to rally around one candidate. On the floor of the House, then, the majority party’s nominee wins since everyone votes for that designated member.

Not so in 2023, though. Despite the Republicans holding the majority of seats in the House, their leading candidate California Congressman Kevin McCarthy did not automatically receive every Republican vote. (The Democratic Congresspersons were 100% united behind their candidate, but they don’t have enough votes to achieve a majority.)

About a dozen Republican members were not happy with McCarthy being their leader. And they were demanding some concessions from him in exchange for their votes. Those publicly mentioned included things such as a putting forward a border security bill, a term limits bill, demands for amendments to deal with the federal debt, and a proposal that would allow a House Speaker to be removed from leadership if five members of the majority force a vote of no confidence.

Those issues, though, were just the ones aired in the media. I’m not sure we got to hear all the demands that were made. I’m just guessing here, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there were other things the recalcitrant Republicans wanted in exchange for their support. And those items may have had little to do with complex issues.

Possible examples:

There was a rumor that somebody wanted McCarthy to agree to wear a Rip Van Winkle costume (with beard) into an Oval Office meeting with “Sleepy” Joe Biden.

McCarthy also had to agree to sing his High School fight song in the Members’ Dining Room at noon every Friday for a month.

He had to pledge to never, ever say anything nice about Senator Chuck Schumer. And always had to refer to Vice President Kamala Harris as the “Queen of Illegal Aliens.”

There was to be no more Speaker’s limousine. A Chevy Volt would replace it.

Nancy Pelosi’s new office was to be in the backroom of the Exxon gas station at the bottom of Capitol Hill.

Forget seniority. Committee assignments were to be chosen by lottery. And McCarthy couldn’t tell any Democrat when the committees were actually scheduled to meet.

As Speaker, he had to agree to make funny faces behind President Biden during the State of the Union Address. And wear a MAGA hat.

No additional Congressional spending was to be allowed until the deficit was less than 20 trillion dollars. After that, any expenditure over $100 had to have unanimous House consent.

Now, I can’t say for certain that all those were actual demands. But they would help explain why We the People got to watch our newly elected Congresspersons sit around on their hands this week doing a whole lot of nothing and getting paid for it.

There was, however, one silver lining to the arduous proceedings. Since the House couldn’t conduct business, it couldn’t spend any more of our money. So, this might have been the least expensive week in the history of Congress. Maybe members should have to elect a Speaker of the House more often.

©MMXXIII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer