Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries Asks GOP To Loosen The Reins In The House

The top Democrat in the House said Friday that Republicans should realize they need help to run the chamber, and should allow noncontroversial bills to come to the floor as the GOP deals with its internal strife.

“[T]he rules of the House should reflect the inescapable reality that Republicans are reliant on Democratic support to do the basic work of governing. A small band of extremists should not be capable of obstructing that cooperation,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

The plea is unlikely to work, however, given both the history of the House and the current Capitol environment, where House Republicans are at least as angry at Democrats as they are at a group of dissidents in their own party for taking down former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Two candidates have announced their intention to replace McCarthy: Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the current second-ranking House Republican, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Another, Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), has said he’s considering getting into the race.

The House has been mostly out of session since Tuesday, when McCarthy became the first speaker in the chamber’s 234-year history to be ousted by a resolution from the floor. Without a speaker to refer bills to specific committees and decide on legislative priorities, the House is unable to function normally.

That may end next week, though, when Republicans are set to gather to select a new speaker from within their conference. As the majority in the House with 221 seats to the Democrats’ 212, the choice of leader is up to the Republicans, but only if they can settle on a candidate at least 217 of them (a majority of the House) can agree on. Whether that will actually happen is unclear after a rump group of eight House Republicans joined with all Democrats to oust McCarthy.

[T]he rules of the House should reflect the inescapable reality that Republicans are reliant on Democratic support to do the basic work of governing. A small band of extremists should not be capable of obstructing that cooperation.House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)

Jeffries’ argument is that Republicans should open up the floor more to Democrats, at least for bills with broad support across both parties. Usually, minor non-controversial bills are passed under a process requiring a two-thirds majority, while only substantive bills that the majority party in power favors are brought to the floor for a vote. This has been true under both Democratic and Republican speakers.

But Jeffries said the reality of a Republican conference hamstrung by its most extreme members called for a new way to do things ― one that would give the Democratic minority power beyond what the minority party has historically held.

“The details would be subject to negotiation, though the principles are no secret: The House should be restructured to promote governance by consensus and facilitate up-or-down votes on bills that have strong bipartisan support,” Jeffries wrote.

“Under the current procedural landscape, a small handful of extreme members on the Rules Committee or in the House Republican conference can prevent common-sense legislation from ever seeing the light of day,” he continued.

It’s also unclear which specific legislative ideas Jeffries believes have “strong bipartisan support.” House Democrats have almost unanimously supported sending additional aid to Ukraine, while about half of Republicans have opposed it. Conversely, Republicans say their proposed major changes to beef up border security should have bipartisan support, even though no Democrats crossed the aisle to vote for a border security bill in May.

House Republicans, still smarting over the embarrassment of seeing their chamber leader unceremoniously kicked out with the aid of 208 Democrats on Tuesday, are in no mood to bargain away any power, though. At least one of McCarthy’s potential successors, Jordan, is seen as more partisan than the sharp-elbowed McCarthy.

And McCarthy himself may have summed up the feeling best in a press conference after he was ousted. When asked if he would have accepted Democratic support to stay in power, he recoiled and said he would not.

“No. I’m a Republican. I win by Republicans and I lose by Republicans,” he said.

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