The House of Representatives is dysfunctional for a variety of reasons
The speaker’s chair has been vacated because of a few MAGA Republicans.
Democrats are more interested in positioning themselves for control in 2024 than restoring stability to Congress, a strategy they may soon regret.
The shoe would be on the other foot in a future congress if “progressive” Democrats that literally support Hamas blackmail a future Democratic speaker.
The shoe would also be on the other foot if a Republican House refused to confirm a vice president the way Ford and Rockefeller were confirmed by a Democrat controlled House. (This would be a great screenplay, especially if the House did not have a speaker that could schedule a vote.)
At this time moderates of both parties need to put the interests of the nation over the interest of their party and elect a speaker to get the House of Representatives working again. The fact that in the past the speaker was elected entirely by the majority does not relieve the Democrats of their obligation to do what is best for the country now.
Chaos is not the only manifestation of Congressional dysfunction. Legislation passes through Congress on a party-line or near party-line basis with very little input from individual Congressman. The desire to spend and not tax has led to an acceleration of the government deficit, even though economic growth remains fairly robust.
This situation must be extremely frustrating for the majority of representatives who are concerned about Ukraine and Israel, support environmental incentives but view newly enacted subsidies as a tad excessive, want to go further with health care reform, and address the Social Security Solvency problem sooner rather than later.
The dysfunction in the House could be fixed two ways. The first solution involves strengthening the bipartisan problem-solving caucus. The second involves the creation of a third party focusing on House and Senate elections.
The problem-solving caucus is a group of over 60 relatively centrist House members from both parties who attempt to reach common ground.
A decision by a united problem solvers caucus to support a single candidate for the speaker and to persuade members of Congress who are not members of the caucus to support the middle-of the road speaker could resolve the current impasse, prevent similar situations, and facilitate better legislation.
The total number of votes obtained by the candidate with two lines on the ballot (either Democrat and problem solver or Republican and problem solver) is the sum of votes from both lines on the ballot.
The problem-solver party could nominate a Democrat, Republican or a third candidate.
A person with Republican leanings would never vote for the Democrat but could vote the Democratic candidate on the problem-solving line of the ballot.
Alternatively, a person with Democrat leanings would likely not vote for the Republican but could vote for a moderate Republican on the problem-solving line.
The existence of a third party option for the House or Senate in a deep blue or red area would create a viable option that could win if the dominant party goes too extreme. A viable moderate option unencumbered by a national party, which appears extreme to local voters, could encourage the dominant party to move towards the center.
In many rural Congressional districts and states the candidacy of the Democrat is the fool’s errand. Consider Texas.
- The Democrats have not won a state-wide election in Texas since the 1990s.
- The Republicans currently control 24 of 38 House seats in Texas.
- In all but three of the Republican controlled House seats in Texas the victor had more than 60 percent of the vote.
Perhaps in Texas the Democrats should disband and make room for the problem-solvers caucus.
In many districts and states the election outcome is determined by the outcome of the contest for the Republican nomination. The winner is often a MAGA republican. The people in the rad area are not pure MAGA as demonstrated by their votes against abortion bans and for Medicaid expansion. But the Democrat candidate loses, in state, Senate and House races, because the left wing of the party is toxic on issues like war and peace and immigration.
The third party movements could also be viable in deep blue areas with extreme “progressive” Democrats Ilhan Omar just barely won the Democratic nomination in 2022 and could be beaten if Democrats against Omar and Republicans unite under the problem-solvers label.
Most discussion of third parties revolves around the Presidential election. The creation of a third party for presidential elections is a narcissistic fool’s-errand exercise. However, a third-party, even if it only gets 10 or 20 seats could hold the balance of power in the House.
More immediately, a unified problem-solvers caucus could end current chaos.
Authors Note: David Bernstein is an economist who writes on economics, finance, and politics. A longer paper on health care reform can be found at Kindle. A recent empirical paper on student debt and household finances can be found at SSRN. Recent posts at Finance Memos include questions and answers on Income Driven Replacement loans and an assessment of Medicare Advantage plans.