Rise of the Moderates?

David Thornton

David Thornton is a freelance writer and professional pilot who has also lived in Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and Emmanuel College. He is Christian conservative/libertarian who was fortunate enough to have seen Ronald Reagan in person during his formative years. A former contributor to The Resurgent, David now writes for the Racket News with fellow Resurgent alum, Steve Berman, and his personal blog, CaptainKudzu. He currently lives with his wife and daughter near Columbus, Georgia. His son is serving in the US Air Force. You can find him on Twitter @CaptainKudzu and Facebook.

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76 Responses

  1. Chris says:

    The alternative might be to keep voting down Kevin McCarthy until after the next election.

    From your keyboard to god’s eyes.Report

  2. Jaybird says:


  3. InMD says:

    Maybe I am being cynical but I assume the implicit, missing final sentence from Kasich’s tweet is ‘Most humbly, I nominate myself.’Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

      There is a kind of ethical argument to be made that Kasich ought to be punished with the speakership for not abandoning his vain and hopeless run in 2016.Report

  4. Philip H says:

    Like many hopes and dreams from moderate conservatives, this one will die on the alter of Republican politicians needing the MAGA base to get past the primaries. no Republican – even Kevin McCarthy – can get elected without them. So while only a handful of out of the closet MAGA Republican actually exist in the House, the movement in the body politic is sufficiently large to ensure there are no compromises with the Democrats. Afterall, the GOP has been saying for several decades that the Democats don’t deserve to govern and cheat to win elections. Why would McCarthy or any other Republican try to now compromise with t hem to get a Speaker elected?

    And again – why are Democrats presumed to have agency here while Republicans aren’t?Report

    • Pinky in reply to Philip H says:

      What do you even mean by agency at this point? It’s clear that all y’all are expecting Democrats to act in unison, compromise on nothing, and get their way…because they deserve it. You’re expecting Republicans to reach across the aisle because it’s their duty to give in to the minority. Has there been a single scenario given in which Democrats display agency?Report

  5. Chip Daniels says:

    Lynn Cheney’s (R-Wy.) name has also been bandied about, but I don’t think enough Republicans would support her.

    It’s that martini-dry wit that keeps me coming back here.Report

    • On ballot #8, recently concluded a few minutes before posting this comment, Donald J. Trump of Florida got exactly one vote. I don’t know if, and if so how many, non-members have ever actually received votes before. But I think it’s fair to evaluate the potential of him winning on a subsequent ballot as something of a long shot.Report

  6. Pinky says:

    I don’t think anyone seriously would consider a candidate outside the 118th House. A moderates-of-both-sides scenario would rip apart the party first making the contribution. I could see a few-strays-from-across-the-aisle scenario. But at this point I’d expect a ton of pressure on McCarthy to drop out and endorse Scalise. I’m not sure he’d get the 218 though. Jordan or Donalds might.Report

  7. Saul Degraw says:

    McCarthy appears on track to lose his 7th vote even though he made enough concessions to the hardliners to render the House of Representatives about as functional as the infamous Polish-Lithuania legislature.Report

  8. Michael Cain says:

    By now, can’t they just say, “I’m pleased to nominate so-and-so to be Speaker of the House,” and sit down?Report

  9. Burt Likko says:

    I think we’re a long way from the resolution described in the OP.

    The MAGA bloc has found a lever and they’re leaning into it for all it’s worth and these aren’t people who compromise. Compromising is swampish behavior. Or something a “wet” would do, to adopt Saul’s nomenclature from yesterday’s discussion.

    And as we all seemed to concur yesterday, the Democrats have no real incentive to help McCarthy or any other Republican go over the top, absent the tender of a price that would absolutely doom the future of any Republican who might otherwise be willing to pay it.

    We aren’t going to see Members pressed up against the hard wall of needing to actually get the House organized until existing spending or debt limit resolutions become imminent enough that default on the debt becomes a possibility. IIRC, we’re good for about eleven more months with the recent spending package passed three weeks ago.

    If you’re sitting back with the popcorn for every vote, you might want to budget some extra cardio time into your daily routine.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Burt Likko says:

      At some point the Senate and the big donors will start to quietly weigh in behind the scenes. That will occur well before that point.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Burt Likko says:

      “And as we all seemed to concur yesterday,”

      It must great to know that you’ve been heard.Report

    • Koz in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I think we’re a long way from the resolution described in the OP.

      This is probably true. That said, I have seen a lot smart people argue that this or that won’t happen, or can’t happen, and I’m not buying any of it. This the fundamentally most unpredictable thing I’ve seen come down the pipe in a while. Anybody who thinks they know the resolution of this, or even the next meaningful developments, I suspect is very wrong.

      Fwiw, this little episode is causing me to reevaluate some things on some basic levels that I wasn’t expecting to reevaluate.Report

      • Philip H in reply to Koz says:

        Fwiw, this little episode is causing me to reevaluate some things on some basic levels that I wasn’t expecting to reevaluate.

        Given the scarcity of your engagement here of late, I look forward to reading this reanalysis.Report

        • Koz in reply to Philip H says:

          Obviously this looks really bad for the GOP. Apparently some think this will be resolved quickly. Either McCarthy can buy off enough critics to win a vote, or McCarthy can withdraw and Scalise gets majority. This could even be true. But there are still major obstacles to either of those happening.

          And worse than that, no matter how it looks, the reality of what it is is much worse.

          At the very least, there’s a significant minority of Republicans inside Congress and at the activist level who are looking for conflict, conflict in general and conflict within the party in particular. Conflict is unavoidable, in sports, in politics, and in life. But to go out looking for conflict for its own sake is profoundly stupid and nihilistic.

          And as things stand in the House of Representatives right now, it’s not obvious that there are 218 votes for anything meaningful at all. We could have guessed beforehand that with the results of the election being what they were that we wouldn’t necessarily have a reliable working majority to ride out the ups and downs of this Congress. But what’s worse, if we’re relying on Boebert, Matt Gaetz and the rest of them, we don’t even have a nominal majority, which is a genuinely new development and a very bad one at that.Report

          • Pinky in reply to Koz says:

            I wouldn’t assume this is thoughtless conflict or conflict for its own sake. This is the only chance for members to select the most important legislative leader in the country.

            As for votes down the road, I’d guess that they’ll depend on the particular legislation – which is how it should be. This current standoff is because of Republicans thinking on their own. We see the same thing in Supreme Court decisions, with the lockstep liberals never varying from their ideology, but the Republican-nominated justices following their reading of the law and the case wherever it takes them. Meanwhile, the liberals will praise themselves for their displays of agency.Report

            • Koz in reply to Pinky says:

              I wouldn’t assume this is thoughtless conflict or conflict for its own sake. This is the only chance for members to select the most important legislative leader in the country.

              Oh but it is. Or more specifically, it is the rejection of the Republican Party (and the Republican conference within the House of Representatives) and its ability to call a play and then run whatever play is called. In short, more than any other this is the vote that defines who is a Republican. The idea that we’re negotiating payoffs to “win” this vote distresses me a great deal, whether it “works” or not.

              This current standoff is because of Republicans thinking on their own.

              I don’t want to see Republicans thinking on their own. That’s what the conference is for. Everything we’ve seen in the last day or so was already hashed out in conference, and a decision was made (and not by a close margin).

              This is a time for Representatives-elect to show that they want to be part of the team or not. And for now, the answer is pretty clear. For 19 of them, they don’t. That has its own problems of course, but I’d rather get started on them than keep on pretending that we have a majority that in reality doesn’t exist.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Koz says:

                I suppose its a good thing he gave away enough of the store to get his opposition down to 7. If that holds – and I can’t see what else he could give away to chip it any – then he’s got a problem.Report

          • North in reply to Koz says:

            That is an interesting analysis! Though, I would submit that for matters where actual legislative rubber is hitting the road there are enough Democratic votes available push the count up to reach a majority. What may not be plausible will be for this congress to be able to run with only GOP votes.Report

            • Koz in reply to North says:

              Well, yeah. This particular issue aside, the working majority that will probably end up controlling the chamber with 218+ voters will very likely have Reps and Demos both in it. But it’s anybody’s guess who will be in it and probably more important, when that will emerge.

              Like I wrote before, this is most fundamentally unpredictable thing I’ve seen in a while. Right now, the only thing you can really be sure of is that there aren’t 218 votes available for anything.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Koz says:

                Right now, the only thing you can really be sure of is that there aren’t 218 votes available for anything.

                Not completely true – they can muster that to adjourn!Report

              • North in reply to Koz says:

                Yup, your guess is as good as mine (better- perhaps you understand the inside baseball within the GOP more than I do) as to when/if a bipartisan accord will be reached/McCarthy gives up or the fringers fold.Report

  10. Philip H says:

    And now Gaetz has nominated Trump.Report

  11. Burt Likko says:

    CSPAN reporters suggest there’s some sort of a deal being cut, and there seem to be Republicans and Democrats negotiating with one another on the floor. (Just saw Matt Gaetz talking with Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, among other odd couples.) Maybe I’ll have to eat my words!Report

  12. Chip Daniels says:

    Imagining some poor high school student a century from now trying to write a term paper and having to explain to the class who Cat Turd 2.0 is and why he was significant in ending of the republic.Report

  13. Philip H says:

    Clearly after 11 votes with the same outcomes the moderates have no plan and no backbone. There’s nothing left to give the bullies. So what’s next?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

      I, personally, think that they should have been prepared to try something else around lucky #7.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Jaybird says:

        If I’m a Democrat, I’m prepared to make some significant concessions to Republicans I can stand if they vote for Jeffries. But I sure as hell ain’t voting for McCarthy.

        if I’m a non-MAGA Republican, I’m prepared to make some significant concessions to Democrats I can stand if they vote for McCarthy. But I sure as hell ain’t voting for Jeffries.

        If I’m a MAGA Republican, I’m winning (everyone is paying attention to me so I can make demands) with only 21 votes because i have a bigger bladder than anyone else in the pissing contest. Why should I do anything different?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Who is the most liberal Republican? Who is the most conservative Democrat?

          Could we find 109 congresscritters on both sides of the aisle who want this shit to be behind us? (Reshuffle, if you need to.)Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Burt Likko says:

          One wouldn’t vote *for* the other, they’d vote ‘present’. Only need a majority of votes, voting present lowers the number needed for a majority.

          Your bigger point stands, but if this comes into play, more likely that it’s negotiated at the top level and the appropriate number of folks are told/given permission to vote present. In that scenario, most likely Jeffries gets some sort of powersharing agreement (with him as Jr. Partner). It would be a ‘win’ for Jeffries, so he’d take something rather than nothing.

          I don’t think it works the other way for McCarthy… he’ll go down with the ship before he takes a Jr. position to Jeffries. To dislodge McCarthy, you’d need actual defectors; and, the moment there are defectors, I suspect someone else in the caucus would lead the coup and give the 20 their symbolic victory (plus the PAC concessions and seats on the Rules committee).

          One of many things that could happen, but unless Jeffries honestly thinks he can get the defectors without the coup, he’s better off getting something rather than nothing.Report

          • Philip H in reply to Marchmaine says:

            Democrats would need 1, possibly 2, clean debt ceiling raises these next two years, the restart of the January 6th Committee or something like it, and probably a couple of key committee chairs or joint chairs to even consider any of this. I don’t see McCarthy, or any of the more moderate Republicans agreeing to any of that. Even with the non-aggression treaty he seems to have negotiated between the Club for Growth and the Congressional PAC, any Republican signing on to that deal would loose their primary.

            The GOP made this bed. It seems they will have to lie in it a little longer.Report

            • Marchmaine in reply to Philip H says:

              Sure… now that we’re all whores, he who has the deadline will get the worse of the deal.

              What’s the deadline? Staffers getting paid? Debt Ceiling (July 2023?)? Other items that need attending to? Who cares more about the thing that needs attending to?

              Honestly don’t know. If there’s not *really* a reason for perpetual congress, then that might be an interesting development all in itself and would give us a new perspective on how long McCarthy is willing/able to wait everyone out.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Marchmaine says:

                the Debt ceiling will be a deadline. Appropriations will be deadlines – even though we have yet to see regular order appropriations in my 20 + year federal career.

                And not paying staff would be problematic, but not yet limiting. My guess is once the Senate reconvenes next week and starts up work on legislation the lack of a functioning House will become apparent. And that’s when the donors will tell McCarthy AND the holdouts to knock it off.Report

          • Pinky in reply to Marchmaine says:

            I assume McCarthy would agree to Scalise before he’d agree to Jeffries.Report

            • Philip H in reply to Pinky says:

              I’d say its a safe bet.Report

            • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

              Agreed, 9 out of 10 times this ends with an intra-party bargain.

              I have no good way to separate the Gaetz’s and MTG’s from the other garden variety Freedom Caucus types in terms of what’s performative and what’s substantive and what it would take for them to declare victory and go home… presumably McCarthy and his team does.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Marchmaine says:

                It appears victory will only be declared over the dead carcass of the republic, at least for some:

                Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina has said a non-negotiable for him is if McCarthy is “willing to shut the government down rather than raising the debt ceiling.” That suggests the kind of precarious future funding fights will pose to the economy.

                Also note that MTG has voted for McCarthy 11 times. Boebert and Gaetz have not.


              • MTG wants her committee assignments back and this is the priceReport

              • Marchmaine in reply to Philip H says:

                Sorry, I got my MTGs and Boebert’s crossed.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Marchmaine says:

                McCarthy has supposedly offered to leave the Speakership if five people don’t like him, and now if one person doesn’t like him. The obvious next play is to offer to not take the Speakership at all. To be honest, if I were a conservative Republican in the House, I would have supported McCarthy through the first few votes, but I would have taken the floor by now and nominated someone else.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

                My understanding is that is a reversion to the rule that says x# of congressmen may ‘motion’ for a vote on the speaker.

                I’ll admit to not knowing how exactly this would work in practice as a weird way to obstruct the House by virtue of, say, calling for a vote after vote after vote, etc. Maybe the Rules have a cooling-off period? Not sure. But that particular item didn’t seem to worry the leadership team as they offered 5 then conceded 1 – stating that there wasn’t a practical difference.

                But as a theoretical principle, it’s not bad (assuming proper protections against abuse) and is one of the things we probably should want if we want a less imperial speakerhsip.Report

              • Philip H in reply to Pinky says:

                He’s offered to allow a vote on being tossed out – not the same as leaving voluntarily. He’s plying the odds that once he’s chosen, the cabal will decide they need him more then he needs them.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Pinky says:

                “Leaving if they don’t like him” was a shorthand way of describing the process. I hope he capped it to once per day, but nothing would stop it from being both a constant threat and an easy way for an angry or pouty Congressman to get on the news.

                A smarter move would have been to promise a new vote every six months.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

                Maybe? Absent an actual ‘thing’ happening, I think McCarthy is probably correct to think that once he’s speaker this sort of obstruction wouldn’t happen again and he’d clear the needed votes without much happenstance.

                It would, if that supposition is correct, be worse to have a formal 6-month ‘reckoning’ vote which could be stalked and planned upon for just such a thing as what they are doing now. A 6-month top-up of their social media clout.

                But either way, I’ve only seen the list of demands ask for the Rules change, not a pre-planned referendum – not that they couldn’t pivot or are even sure of what their demands are and why.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Marchmaine says:

                I’m thinking that every time he raises the debt ceiling by like 45 cents he’ll be facing a motion to vacate. If I were McCarthy I’d rather face a guaranteed six months from now “yeah, but it was only 45 cents”.Report

              • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

                Good point; depends on the obstructionist limits to the Rules change whether he’d feel confident that the caucus as a whole would steamroll his Speakership once he’s already Speaker (which is the sense I get).

                But if that’s a concern and a goal, he’d most certainly make sure that the first referendum would be after the July Debt Ceiling situation upcoming.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Burt Likko says:

          Is there a way for McCarthy+Jeffries to share the post? Alternate months or something? Let everyone claim they’ve won?Report

  14. Chip Daniels says:

    In a ceremony today honoring those fallen in the Jan 6 insurrection, only one (1) Republican chose to stand up.

    All the others sided with the coup plotters. So there really isn’t any way to describe the two hundred twenty or so Republicans as “moderate”, so much as “enablers of treason.”

    They may not lead the charge, but will helpfully sit down and turn their eyes away.Report

  15. Philip H says:

    Of note:

    Here is a list of some of the major concessions and promises McCarthy has made over the course of the negotiations, according to CNN reporting.

    Any member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair
    McCarthy’s leadership PAC won’t play in open primaries in safe districts
    Hold votes on key conservative bills, including balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, border security
    A debt ceiling hike must be paired with spending cuts
    Move 12 appropriations bill individually
    More Freedom Caucus representation on committees, including the House Rules Committee
    Cap discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels, which would amount to lower levels for defense and domestic programs
    Allow for 72 hours to review bills before they come to floor
    Give members ability to offer more amendments on the House floor
    Create an investigative committee to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government
    Restore the Holman rule which can be used to reduce the salary of government officials

    Some of these – the ones requiring floor votes – will most surely go down, especially if the Democrats can be united against them. Things like the Holman Rule and the weaponization committee are just bad ideas not actually designed to do anything but generate sound bites and chill federal executive branch activities.