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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

It's been a historic week in Washington as Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy failed on over a dozen ballots to earn 218 votes to become Speaker of the House. Congressional members haven't been sworn in, committee assignments haven't been made and regular business of the House chamber has been at a standstill. It's okay. Step away from the panic and take a deep breath. 

Nobody should be shocked about the way things went down on the House floor this week or that there is legitimate conservative opposition to the status quo. Of course there is. 

This fight has been looming for at least a year when it became increasingly evident Republicans would take back the House from Democratic control. 

During the 2022 midterm elections, McCarthy put in the work to raise $500 million for Republican candidates. It barely paid off, leading to a House majority of just five seats in a city more concerned about enriching politicians and political parties than representing constituents. Even after a failed bid for Speaker in 2015, leading to the unexpected election of Paul Ryan for the job, McCarthy's ambitions of assuming the office lived on. 

Just days before voting for Speaker was underway, we knew at least five members opposed McCarthy's bid, making the math to 218 votes unattainable. When voting started Tuesday, we found out the opposition was 20 members strong and had plans to negotiate after holding an open debate on the House floor.

The media, Democrats and pro-McCarthy Republicans immediately started to panic, calling the situation "chaotic" and "embarrassing." Deeply dishonest accusations were hurled against opposition Republicans with claims they don't have any specifics. Republican Dan Crenshaw even referred to them as "terrorists." 

But the opposition, led by serious and credible conservative Congressman Chip Roy, does have specifics. 

"I want to be able to have enough members in the Rules Committee that we can block bad bills," Republican Chip Roy said during an interview with Fox News, explaining there was much more being discussed behind the scenes. "I want an open amendment process and I want the ability to have the ability to make points of order on the floor if amendments aren't going to be able to be relevant." 

In addition, the "rebels" want power in the House to be decentralized away from the Speaker's office and returned to the representatives of the body. 

"One of the key issues we have in America is that Congress is fundamentally broken and the reason it's fundamentally broken is because too much power resides in the hands of the Speaker of the House. That's not an anti-Kevin McCarthy statement; that's the reality in Washington, D.C.," Rep. Byron Donalds said during an interview before voting started Tuesday. "There are members who want to see a devolving of that power in the Speaker's office into the hands of the members." 

The terms for negotiation have been specific and clear. 

On day four and after being nominated for Speaker on multiple ballots, Donalds switched his vote to McCarthy. Republican Scott Perry did the same. 

"We're at a turning point. I've negotiated in good faith, with one purpose: to restore the People's House back to its rightful owners. The framework for an agreement is in place, so in a good-faith effort, I voted to restore the People's House by voting for @gopleader McCarthy," Perry tweeted Friday. 

The House has been voting by proxy for two years, so this type of debate may be unfamiliar to some, but it's exactly the kind of debate Americans deserve. Not just for Speaker, but on every single piece of legislation that comes up for a vote on the House floor. 

The Founding Fathers set up the United States government to function in a slow and deliberative way. The current process of rushed, multi-thousand-page, trillion-dollar spending bills is a bastardization of their vision and intentions for the country. This type of rushed governance has also led to $32 trillion in debt and a sprawling, bloated, unaccountable and corrupt federal government. Twenty House Republicans stood up this week to revert Congress back to functioning as it was intended, not as a body of convenience for politically entrenched parties. That's exactly what we've witnessed, and it was long overdue. 

As for the future of the House, the race for Speaker is an election, not a coronation. For McCarthy, or any other candidate for that matter, it's an uphill battle. McCarthy may eventually convince enough opposition to put him in the Speaker's office – slowly earning votes based on restoring trust, compromise and discussion. He's already done it by flipping ten members. 

Or not. 

But the debate and process being implemented to fundamentally change Washington, D.C., by returning power to the people is worthwhile and will be reflected well in U.S. history. In our Republic, which we hope to keep, this is what democracy looks like. 


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