House Republicans have been referred to with a range of adjectives, including hapless, thuggish, clownish, and ineffective. But the most accurate term to describe them is “minority.” As a minority party, Republicans lack the ability to pass significant legislation that their leadership considers necessary.
This has occurred three times already, with failed attempts to address the debt ceiling and keep the government open. The Democrats, although fewer in number, are effectively driving the meager accomplishments of the House under Republican leadership.
Throughout the leadership struggle in the House, pundits from the Acela corridor urged Democrats to help Republicans out of their leaderless predicament.
However, without receiving anything in return, they were expected to contribute votes to a speaker who would be deemed illegitimate by MAGA extremists due to Democratic support. Fortunately, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) rejected these foolish requests.
Now, Jeffries finds himself in an advantageous position. He bears no responsibility for electing a speaker whose Christian fundamentalist beliefs and financial issues burden Republicans in swing districts.
He can criticize Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) for his objectionable views while effectively pushing legislation that does not compromise the minimum standards of Democrats. During a news conference, Jeffries emphasized, “House Republicans are unable to govern on their own. Period, full stop, no further observation necessary.”
The sentiment expressed by Jeffries is corroborated by Republican Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), who declared from the House floor that his colleagues in the Republican majority have failed to accomplish any material, meaningful, or significant achievements.
In essence, it is the Democrats who are governing. This was evident in the passing of the funding bill. Democrats secured everything they wanted in the spending bill, while Republicans did not.
There were no significant cuts in social spending, no inclusion of abortion riders or any unfavorable provisions. Jeffries stated to reporters, “House Democrats came into this week with three principal objectives with respect to the continuing resolution.” He went on to explain that these objectives were accomplished: no spending cuts, no extreme right-wing policy changes, and no government shutdown.
Democrats revealed that Republicans, or at least Johnson and his closest allies, do not have the willingness for a shutdown. With the upper hand, Democrats skillfully played their cards.
Looking ahead, the House will likely need to repeat the spending exercise twice more, once for each half of the spending arrangement. It is highly unlikely that Republicans will be able to pass full appropriations bills for various sectors before specific deadlines. Democrats will, once again, vote to prevent a shutdown and extend government operations.
Despite lacking a mathematical majority, Democrats may still accomplish more. The governing majority they formed for the spending bills (almost all Democrats and 127 Republicans) can be used for other purposes.
For example, in December, the Senate could present a bill reflecting President Biden’s supplemental spending priorities, including increased spending on immigration control and aid for countries like Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan.
Johnson and the MAGA caucus may resist, as some members may choose to support Russian President Vladimir Putin or exploit the border situation without providing solutions.
However, a motion to discharge only requires 218 members to execute, far less than the 336 combined votes that passed the spending bill. Some endangered Republicans from districts won by Biden may not want to vote against these items.
Even Johnson, who previously opposed additional spending for Ukraine, has hinted that he may support it. He could combine it with funding for Israel or bring it to the floor separately. It appears that there would be enough votes to pass the much-needed aid, even if the majority are supplied by Democrats. Johnson could also reinforce aid to Taiwan, a country that Republicans view as a favored international adversary.
Apart from keeping the government operational and supporting allies during global crises, it may be difficult for the House to achieve much more. Nonetheless, Democrats can claim to have protected all of Biden’s legislative output from his first two years and to have fulfilled international obligations despite the isolationist tendencies of the MAGA movement.
They have also thwarted Republican “investigations,” rendering them ineffective and eliminating baseless charges as talking points.
One can only imagine what Democrats could accomplish if they had the mathematical majority. Surely, this will be a significant aspect of their pitch in 2024.