Now that the race for speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives has officially turned from muddled to chaotic, centrist Republicans – yes, they still exist – need to press their advantage. And Democrats might even want to help them.
Last month, outgoing Speaker John Boehner hoped to end what he called “leadership turmoil” in the Republican Party when he announced he was quitting. The favorite to succeed him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, dropped out of the race on Thursday after concluding that he was “not the one to unify the party.” A unifying figure may yet emerge, but that needn’t happen for the House to function effectively.
Party unity in a legislature is prized by partisans, of course. It’s less so by the American people, who overwhelmingly want a legislature that works. The leadership void in the House presents a rare opportunity for members of both parties who value bipartisanship to assert themselves.
The tea party-aligned House Freedom Caucus helped force McCarthy out of the race by uniting behind a renegade, Daniel Webster of Florida. Their victory leaves Republicans with a choice: They can line up behind Webster, or they can sue for peace and seek a compromise candidate.
Webster, who arrived in Congress in 2010 after having served as majority leader of the Florida Senate and speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, certainly has the experience to be speaker.
The Republican Main Street Partnership, which bills itself as being “aligned with the governing wing of the Republican Party,” has more than 65 members, making it larger than the Freedom Caucus. If it can deliver all its votes, it can extract promises or concessions from the next speaker. They needn’t be extreme – merely committing to keep the government open would be progress. And if moderate Republicans wanted to up the ante, they could enlist Democrats to vote for their candidate.
This is excerpted from Bloomberg News.