Solving the House GOP Problem

House Republicans face a much deeper, bigger problem than they are currently trying to solve.

by Newt Gingrich

House Republicans face a much deeper, bigger problem than they are currently trying to solve.

Finding the votes to elect a speaker is only the first step (217 votes is the majority threshold with current vacancies). The bigger challenge is building a sense of team and community so the House GOP can continue to function effectively. Beyond the speaker mess, there are a lot of hard decisions that need to be made. Inevitably, House Republicans will have to negotiate with the Senate and the Biden White House to get things done. Like it or not, that’s going to require compromise.

Somehow a large package of aid to Israel, Ukraine, and several American emergencies must be written and then passed. Then it must go to conference with the Senate and come back to the House and the conference report to be passed. 

This will require bipartisan support because it will be impossible to get 217 Republicans to vote for it.

So, electing a new speaker will be the beginning – not the end – of the challenge.

If Majority Leader Steve Scalise or Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan had been able to attract the 217 votes needed to win on the floor, they would then have faced an incredibly difficult series of decisions which might have led to an open rebellion in a matter of weeks.

No bill which can come out of a conference with the Senate and be signed by President Joe Biden is going to be acceptable to the most conservative members of the House GOP Conference.

That means any successful legislation will need bipartisan support.

Much of the Republican base will be angry. Many conservative analysts will be critical – even contemptuous. The most entrepreneurial of the demagogues will, once again, find attacking their own leadership will be a great way to get on television and raise money on the internet.

The House Republican Conference must confront these facts and talk with itself until it finds a way to live with this reality.

In a real way building a sense of team is more important than picking a speaker.

In fact, the speaker should come as a consequence of building the team and should represent the spirit of working together – even when some of the outcomes are unacceptable or occasionally infuriating. 

If the current free-for-all with nine candidates does not produce someone who can get 217 votes, then the House GOP must shift gears.

First, members should agree to keep meeting until they get to a team building consensus, work through how to handle the inevitable arguments and disillusionment, and then find a leader who can implement that understanding and get 217 votes. They should enter a marathon that only ends with success. No breaks. No trips home.

Second, members need to reverse the order in which they have been trying to elect a speaker. They keep nominating someone and then going to the floor to see if they can get the votes. They tried this with Scalise, and he recognized he could not meet the 217-vote threshold. He withdrew. They tried it with Jordan, and he made three runs at getting 217 votes. He simply could not get there. In fact, by the third vote, he was beginning to lose ground.

If this new effort fails, the conference should do a series of secret ballot votes. Every Republican member’s name should be on the ballot. Members should check every person that they would find acceptable. If anyone gets 217 votes. That person should be speaker. If several members get 217 votes, then the conference can pick from that list of potential winners.

The key is to understand that until you have 217 you have nothing. Even 216 votes is effectively zero votes on the floor.

While they are picking the next speaker, the conference must have some straight, honest conversations about team building – and staying together even when members disagree. The current dysfunctional psychology (or psychosis) will make it impossible for a new speaker to survive – and for the House to do its constitutional duty. So, the psychology must change. 

No Republican should be confused about what is happening. To be a member of Congress, you swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

Petty bickering, egocentric posturing, and self-righteous anger all undermine and weaken the United States. Meanwhile, there are two major wars. The Chinese Communists are trying to replace us as the leading power. The Iranian dictatorship is chanting “death to America and death to Israel.” Our border is a nightmare. Our citizens are dying from drug overdoses with greater losses each year than in the entire Vietnam War. Crime is rampant, and our schools are collapsing. Now is the time for genuine leadership.

Republicans need to place country first, develop a team spirit, and learn to work together – even under difficult, stressful, and frustrating circumstances.

I wrote “March to the Majority” to outline how hard it was over a 16-year period to retrain the House GOP, develop a Contract with America, and win the first majority in 40 years. I also outlined how complicated it was to negotiate with President Bill Clinton, reform welfare, cut taxes, and achieve the only four balanced budgets in our lifetime. 

House Republicans would do well to take a half day to read “March to the Majority” and talk among themselves about the disciplined, hard work necessary to serve America successfully.

Right now, they are failing in their duty to the country and to their party.

America deserves better.

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