Columnists, Mike Rosen, National, U.S. Congress, Uncategorized

Rosen: Freedom Caucus chaos over McCarthy a mixed bag of results

“Shadenfruede” is a profound German term for taking pleasure in the misfortune of others.  Predictably, Democrats and their liberal media echo-chamber reveled in the chaos surrounding Kevin McCarthy’s election for Speaker of the House.  In retrospect, I’d call it a mixed bag.

Winning a majority in the House and unseating Nancy Pelosi, Republicans hoped to install McCarthy quickly and smoothly to show the public how efficiently they’ll govern.  Even some flabbergasted Republicans asked, “How could the party have blown this opportunity?”

Well, the “party” didn’t.  That was the work of 20 right-wing free agents in the Freedom Caucus, less than ten percent of the 222 House Republicans who overwhelmingly supported McCarthy.  And the rebels aren’t even a majority of the 45 members of the Freedom Caucus, most of whom voted for McCarthy, including Jim Jordan, a practical conservative who nominated McCarthy for Speaker.  Most of the “20,” all stalwart supporters of Donald Trump, nonetheless resisted Trump’s plea to drop the rebellion, “Take the win,” and vote for McCarthy.

The rebels enjoyed the chaos as much as House Democrats, who boisterously applauded their perfunctory nomination of Democrat Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, a left-wing black congressman from Brooklyn, with absolutely no chance of being elected Speaker.  Dems and the liberal media gushed when he topped McCarthy 212-203 in the first roll call vote, as if it mattered.  Given that not one of the 212 House Democrats would vote for McCarthy, winning a majority of 218 in the first round wasn’t likely.

For the rebels, this was a showboat with a chance to speechify and grandstand.  They didn’t have nearly enough votes to elect anyone else, but they had just enough to gum up the works, which they did by means closer to extortion than negotiation.  Behind the scenes, they dragged the wheeling and dealing out, moving the goal posts to demand yet more concessions.  Finally, McCarthy was elected 216-212 on the 15th ballot, with 6 of the rebels still shunning him by voting “present” in a petty display of sore-winner disunity.

The rebellion did produce some positive results, however, gaining reasonable compromises from McCarthy and the Republican majority on committee assignments, the GOP legislative agenda, and rules changes.  Their counterproductive and impractical demands weren’t met. That’s the way negotiations work.

The Freedom Caucus isn’t monolithic.  The 45 members are principled conservatives, but some are dogmatic and uncompromising while others are more flexible and realistic.  They all deserve a place at the table and a fair hearing within the House majority, but they don’t have the numbers to dictate anything.  They hold seats in safe Republican congressional districts where Trump was popular, which explains why some imitate his belligerent style.

What my fellow Republicans in and out of Congress need to recognize is that we are not in power in Washington.  Democrats control the Senate and the Presidency, hence the executive branch of government.  With a thin majority in the House, Republicans are just barely in power there and will be entirely powerless if just a few rogue members break ranks from what must be near-unanimous unity on vital votes.  Even then, the Democrat-controlled Senate will kill any House bill their progressive base opposes.  Even if one slips through, with help from Joe Manchin and Kristen Sinema, President Biden will veto legislation that challenges his progressive agenda.  For now, the best Republicans can do with their House majority is conduct committee hearings and investigations that Democrats wouldn’t, block destructive Democrat Senate bills, and use the House’s power of the purse to force Democrats to negotiate on spending bills.  However, Republicans and conservative media should be wary of raising false hopes with grandiose promises of unachievable outcomes.

“The establishment” is a dated, simplistic cliché coined by hippies and the revolutionary left in the 1960s who didn’t “trust anyone over 30” (including their parents).  Today, right-wing Republicans often hurl that term at their colleagues.  It’s an inaccurate and unfair insult steeped in anger and frustration when directed at McCarthy and other right-center experienced Republicans and elder statesmen who work within the political system as it is to achieve conservative goals.  These are the people who can win elections in congressional swing districts and states where the “20” couldn’t.

Matt Gaetz, leader of the “20,” branded McCarthy as the “biggest alligator in the Washington swamp.”  While the so-called swamp isn’t precisely defined by those who would drain it, presumably it’s infested with bureaucrats, legislators you disagree with, liberal media, lobbyists, labor union headquarters, academics, think tanks, etc.  But one person’s swamp monster is another’s protected species.  Like it or not, it’s an indelible and legal part of the system.  As Trump discovered, it’s not drainable, although a handy cliché and piñata.

Longtime KOA radio talk host and columnist for the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News Mike Rosen now writes for


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