One part of government has lost its way; could term limits be the answer?

Published 10:48 am Friday, January 6, 2023

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Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have yet to be sworn in. They can’t help constituents or get classified briefings, most less hold hearings or pass laws. At some point, they may have trouble getting paid.
The failure to elect a speaker has effectively paralyzed the House.
The personal and political drama that is playing out on the House floor as Representative Kevin McCarthy tries and fails repeatedly to become speaker has broader implications for the country, raising questions about what happens when one chamber of the legislative branch ceases to function.
Without a speaker, the United States House of Representatives essentially becomes a useless entity. Because none of its members can be sworn in until a speaker is chosen, there are no lawmakers to respond to an emergency or a crisis, only representatives-elect. With no rules adopted, the legislative process cannot move forward; no bills can be passed or resolutions adopted.
Lacking a speaker, the House cannot carry out its responsibility for oversight of the federal government or any other entity. The House cannot haul witnesses before committees, and those elected to serve cannot set up operations to help out their constituents.
Returning lawmakers have lost their security clearances to get private briefings from the military and the intelligence agencies because, having not been sworn in, they are not officially members of Congress.
Law and precedents state that the House must elect a speaker before lawmakers take any other action.
To McCarthy, becoming House Speaker is all about power. It’s a job within his grasp, yet he cannot take hold of it because of a few lawmakers in his party who seemingly are not for anything and against everything. They, too, are seeking power. Their numbers are less than 20, but thus far, they have the power at least to block McCarthy’s bid to become House Speaker and paralyze the start of the new Congress.
Though Democrats weren’t expecting any sort of miracle win for their choice, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, they beamed as Jeffries topped the leader board on all roll calls Tuesday — not enough to win, but enough to best McCarthy on all three ballots. Through it all, grandchildren of lawmakers expecting to be sworn in — some of them babies and toddlers — impatiently fidgeted as the nominal grown-ups tried in vain to make up their minds.
As of Thursday afternoon, lawmakers still had a House with no speaker. Three more roll calls on Thursday gave McCarthy three more demeaning defeats. Regardless of when the selection is made, the damage to the GOP has been done. McCarthy has, in essence, been held hostage by a few Republicans who seem to want to air grudges against party leadership as much as they insist on making egregious demands that don’t belong in any election of a speaker.
What’s wrong with the Republican Party was on full display in the House chamber this week. By yielding so much clout to the party’s far-right wing, establishment Republicans put themselves in the unenviable position of having to win over a group of Trump-allied holdouts who seized their chance to wrest as many concessions from the McCarthy camp as possible — and in the process rub the California Republican’s face in the dirt.
In short, dysfunction and petty politicking within the GOP is derailing the party’s own agenda, and keeping real, important work in Congress from getting done.
Republicans couldn’t have imagined a worse start to the 118th Congress. Neither could hardworking Americans, many of whom voted for GOP candidates. Those loyal Republican voters deserve to see a party that can organize itself as a functioning entity. It is unconscionable that the GOP would let them down in such short order.
Every organization has its rebels, and Congress is no exception. And, career lawmakers have no claim on anything. It is difficult to overstate the extent to which term limits could change Congress. It may be the only way to clean up Congress.

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