Sunday, May 16, 2021

Worse Than McCarthy

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, columnist Jennifer Rubin argues that Representative Liz Cheney, thus far leader of the anti-Trump faction in the Republican Party, does not go far enough. She should, Rubin writes, "embrace efforts to guarantee the same access voters enjoyed in 2020 and also support H.R. 4, which would restore the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act."

Moreover, Rubin maintains, the Wyoming congresswoman should campaign in both primaries and general election "against any House member who signed on to the noxious brief seeking to disenfranchise millions of voters and against any House or Senate member who voted to overthrow the results of 2020."

A little strangely, she then adds that Cheney "also should require candidates she backs to refuse to vote for McCarthy as speaker." That would serve little purpose.

It's apparent that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who voted to support objections to the election results in both Pennsylvania and Arizona, has no spine.  Minority Whip Steve Scalise voted in the same manner in January, as did Gary Palmer, now the Republican Policy Committee chairman. None appears to have any  problem with Donald Trump.

Elise Stefanik voted for the objection to Pennsylvania's vote, though against the objection to Arizona.

However, that was the old Elise Stefanik. The new Elise Stefanik made sure in the GOP's closed-door meeting on May 14 "to thank President Trump for his support. He is a critical part of our Republican conference...."

Even Rubin, who has written "Resistance: How Women Saved Democracy From Donald Trump," recognizes that Stefanik is an even "bigger Trump stooge" than McCarthy. And there may be an even worse scenario that "Speaker Stefanik." 

Back in October, 2015, when the Republican Party already was unreasonable but seemed tolerant of democracy, NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams noted that the US Constitution specifies

 "The House of Representatives shall chuse (sic) their Speaker and other Officers."

The Clerk of the House agrees with the office of the House Historian, which says the speaker "has always been (but is not required to be) a House Member."

Most historians and legal experts who've looked at this issue conclude the founders simply assumed the speaker would be drawn from among elected members.


given the Constitution's silence on the matter, what if the House did elect an outsider to be speaker? Someone affected by a law passed during a Congress that included a non-member speaker could file a lawsuit, but such an effort probably wouldn't go very far.

The federal courts — and especially the Supreme Court — are reluctant to wade into cases that raise such purely political questions.

If the GOP were to take control of the House of Representatives in January, 2023 (as most analysts believe likely) and Donald Trump were to demand that he be made Speaker, there would be little objection from House Republicans. By that time, Liz Cheney and the few members of the caucus who are willing to question the Chosen One probably will be gone. Although a lazy Donald Trump imight not want to put forth the effort which a Speaker of the House normally expends, it would be his for the asking. The Supreme Court ultimately would agree or take a pass.

A few years ago, pundits who fancied themselves clever would declare- without dissent- "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." It was considered irrefutable, was politically correct, and was as recently as a year ago January repeated by the House Judiciary Committee chairperson.


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