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What Can be Done With This House of Representatives ?

Summary:
Obviously the only thing any reasonable person would do is point and laugh at the Republicans. I am not that reasonable person, so I will try to think of a solution. Obviously one very boring possibility is that the Republicans will finally get their act together and elect a speaker. This is the most likely outcome, but very far from optimal. The other possibility is that a speaker will be elected by a bipartisan majority like the majority which prevented default and delayed the government shutdown. I think this would be very good and want to figure out how it might possibly happen. One possibility is that number 1 vote getter Hakeem Jeffries picks up 5 more votes and is elected speaker. This requires finding 5 Republican Representatives

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Obviously the only thing any reasonable person would do is point and laugh at the Republicans. I am not that reasonable person, so I will try to think of a solution.

Obviously one very boring possibility is that the Republicans will finally get their act together and elect a speaker. This is the most likely outcome, but very far from optimal.

The other possibility is that a speaker will be elected by a bipartisan majority like the majority which prevented default and delayed the government shutdown. I think this would be very good and want to figure out how it might possibly happen.

One possibility is that number 1 vote getter Hakeem Jeffries picks up 5 more votes and is elected speaker. This requires finding 5 Republican Representatives who are totally sick of it and want to leave (they will never win a Republican primary and Democratic voters will probably prefer a real Democrat) and who are also responsible, public spirited, and moderate. I do not believe that there are 5 such Republicans. I don’t think it will happen (for one thing the penalty might not just be the end of a career but also the end of a life or two).

A more likely possibility is for a Republican representative to be elected speaker with the support of some Democrats. I guess this will mean all (or almost all) Democrats and a few Republicans. I am pretty sure that the speaker will not be elected to the next Congress and nor will the few Republicans. But I think this could be very attractive to someone who is sick of the mess in the House and wants to quit. That person will quit as a hero statesman (or woman) who saved the House. That means post career (in distant 2025) invitations to appear on TV talk shows and an income as a lobbyist more than the usual 10 times a Representatives salary. The other at least 4 have to be compensated too, without even getting the gavel.

I think this is a very attractive option for the Democrats even if they get nothing explicit in exchange for their votes. The fact that they gave the speaker the gavel means they can take it away (I think they can count on at least 5 nutso Republicans who will never ever forgive the bipartisan speaker — in any case the bipartisan speaker probably wouldn’t want to pull two partisan shifts (that looks like ambition crazed politician not noble statesman and this person will almost certainly be looking for a new line of work on January 2025).

There are advantages for the few other Republicans who sacrifice their careers by voting with Democrats. They get to be considered bipartisan statespersons too. Also they get to blackmail the new speaker who needs their support. In Italy politicians all try to be “l’ago del bilancio” (the needle of the balance — that is the thing in the middle which decides who wins). Gaining that position which winning the praise of all the very serious talking heads should be highly attractive.

OK so I assume that doesn’t work and there is no Republican representative who wants a gavel given by Democrats. The speaker does not have to be a member of Congress. My next choice would be an eminent Republican supreme court justice (two birds one stone – not gonna happen). Then some Republican judge bored with working on an appeals court. None are likely to be available.

Now I get to my actual proposal: Speaker Dolly Parton. Everyone likes Dolly Parton. She actually is a stateswoman willing to do a thankless job. She would need to brush up on the rules of the House, but I think she’s a quick study.

I nominate Dolly Parton for Speaker of the House of Representatives.

I’m not even 100% sure I am joking.

Update: assuming Ms Parton knows what’s best for her and refuses, I have other desperate thoughts.

Susan Collins: Represents a state with a Democratic Governor. Two birds. One stone. Definitely not available but a man can dream.

From the same state, how about Olympia Snowe: already ejected from the party for an objectively pro-Democrat interest in actual policy. Is used to enormous power based on Barack Obama’s devotion to bipartisanship. Currently not busy as far as I know.

Mitt Romney: already a dead Republican walking. Looks the part. Able to work with Democrats as he demonstrated when he enacted Obamacare in Massachusetts long before most people had heard of Obama. Really really hates Donald Trump. Reminds other Trump hating Republicans of the time before Trump. Can afford the pay cut (actually I think Speakers make as much money as Senators). As senator always votes with the other Republicans so it doesn’t matter that he will be replaced by an ultra conservative a few years earlier than is inevitable.

George Santos: would be worth it just for the laughs. Sadly voting for him would discredit the Democratic party, but still might be worth it just for the laughs.

My daughter suggests there might be 5 Republicans so eager to really really stick it to the freedom caucus that they would vote to make Michelle Obama speaker. I’d do it, but I’ve already decided to retire, so I don’t care about future employability.

Update II: This is serious. I have secretly been hoping for speaker Tom Cole. I admit the reasons are two. FIrst he is Native American ( Chickasaw  ). Second he thought it was unfair that the Trump tax cuts gave even more money to the rich (OK he voted for them but at least he said it was unfair).

He is currently chairman of the ruled committee. He is always described as respected by both Republicans and Democrats. Given his current standing in the Republican Party he is certainly not willing to get elected speaker with the actual votes of actual Democrats. However I think there are dozens of Democrats who would be willing to vote for him (as the best of bad options) if it were necessary.

I think there are 217 Republicans who are willing to vote for him given the understanding that he will be elected speaker with or without there votes, with the votes of Democrats if necessary, and they wouldn’t like a speaker to be elected with the votes of Democrats.

I think Democrats can even pass on the roll call to make it clear that they will vote for Speaker Cole if that is necessary and do you really want to be the Republican responsible for a speaker being elected with the votes of Democrats “honorable” member Gaetz ? Aren’t you in enough trouble already ?

Robert Waldmann
Robert J. Waldmann is a Professor of Economics at Univeristy of Rome “Tor Vergata” and received his PhD in Economics from Harvard University. Robert runs his personal blog and is an active contributor to Angrybear.

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