Congress is quite the scene these days. With Speaker Boehner’s offer to resign, the Republican faction simply needs to pick a replacement and get on with business. Following the Kevin McCarthy false start, Paul Ryan is home this weekend contemplating whether he should step forward. Alas, the wheels of progress seem hopelessly misaligned. Instead of meshing, these wheels are grinding. Hmmm.
The cause for Boehner’s resignation is the same cause for the GOP’s inability to pick a replacement Speaker. There are about 40 strongly conservative (Tea Party children) who caucus as Republicans but who are unwilling to follow Boehner’s leadership. This pack of 40 are quite comfortable with brinkmanship tactics such as shutting down the Government and defaulting on the Nation’s debt. While the rest of the GOP caucus members would not be confused with Democrats, these 40 stand alone in their conservative positions and their choice of tactics.
So, maybe we should think of them as a third party. Forty members is a reasonable start for a Congressional transition to a multi-party body. In today’s Congress, the 114th, the Republican caucus consists of 247 members. Democrats list 188 members. The total for the House is 247.
So where is the third party?
If the block of 40 were to caucus by themselves, the Republican caucus would drop to 207, still larger than the Democrats’ 188 but no longer a majority of all Representatives. No majority, no leadership positions.
Several members of the group of 40 speak passionately that the feud with the main Republican group is more about process and transparency. They claim Speaker Boehner keeps all matters to a small group and simply expects these 40 to vote as directed. These spokesmen say that if only it were an open process and they could put forth whatever amendments they wished, they would be prepared to accept the outcome of the vote and life would be great.
Speculation, however, leads one to think this is a clever tactic to build a voting record for the other GOP Representatives (look Representative so and so voted against this or that). The idea would be that in future elections, with plenty of negative advertising, to purge the less conservative Representatives from the roles. Pretty clever way to hijack a more centrist GOP.
Getting from here to there may prove testing. The 40 claim the majority (the other 207) are only interested in making deals with special interests and are too quick to abandon “principles”. If the 40 were to gain more members or unintentionally spawn the creation of other “third parties, what would lobbyists do?
I can just imagine how the K-Street crowd might react if they woke up to five or six parties in Congress. How would they convince enough to vote for their clients? How much more money would it take?
Don’t think this could happen? Consider the Bernie Sanders movement. Big banks have certainly earned the imposition of new rules, betting the average person’s money on high risk transactions where if successful, banks won, if unsuccessful depositors lost. Hmmm.
How about a new “green” movement? With South Carolina having just experienced a Biblical proportion flooding, the possible connection to global warming is troublesome. With a few more of these calamities, even Southerners might take note.
Even more worrisome would be future parties centering on labor (read unions) or economic class. Or how about a “people’s party” reminiscent of Argentine’s Perone? This may seem out of the question but when Social Security is slashed, Medicare is cut back and Medicaid is held hostage, a “peoples” outcry might not be so far fetched.
America’s two party system has worked well over the years. It is based upon the principle that a one vote plurality is sufficient to win (until the next vote). The gang of 40 must make up their mind whether to separate and part from the GOP caucus, or change their strategies and stick it out playing within the rules. Openness and transparency are worthy goals but with the current backdoor deals financed by special interests, this goal is unrealistic even though worthy.
Wishing for a third party might not bring ones desired results but with a continuation of the group of 40, a third party is not so farfetched.