Budowsky: Speaker McCarthy’s five bad dreams
The probable next Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), would do well to remember a saying about what would happen in the event of nuclear war during the 1960s, which was that “the living would envy the dead.”
While the likelihood that McCarthy would take advice from me is as high as the sun rising in the west, I do have experience working for the House Democratic leadership under different Speakers, beginning with Rep. Tip O’Neill (Mass.), one of the two historically great Speakers in my lifetime, and the other being Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), whom I never worked for but profoundly admire.
McCarthy should tell any far-right Republican members who threaten him that there are probably 30 or more comparatively moderate GOP members who could be politically destroyed in a heartbeat if he turns the people’s House into a house of inquisitions. This is exactly what voters rejected in the 2018 midterm elections, the 2020 elections and the 2022 midterms.
McCarthy should tell any far-right Republican members that he will work with them and compromise with them, but will not surrender his Speakership, and will not surrender the House, in ways that would destroy dozens of other Republican members. Period.
McCarthy’s first bad dream is that just a handful of Republican members have the power to defeat him on the first ballot of the Jan. 3 House Speaker’s vote. That is simple mathematics. He should tell them it is also simple mathematics that if he loses on the first ballot, and they alienate even a handful of moderate Republicans, they have the power to choose the next Speaker along with Democratic members.
McCarthy’s second bad dream — and the bad dream of dozens of moderate Republicans — is that shortly after the Georgia Senate runoff, Democrats will begin a massive and unprecedented fundraising barrage in support of House Democrats in 2024.
I have privately mentioned this possibility to one very important Democrat in Washington and another very important Democrat on the West Coast. I am very optimistic that this scenario will begin to unfold before the end of the year.
The smart move for more moderate House Republicans is to assert themselves now. They may have reason to worry, for now, about Trump Republicans in their districts. But they have huge reason to worry about the intense backlash in their districts against Republican obstructionism, extremism and radicalism if the House becomes a hyperpartisan house of inquisition and banana republicanism. This at a time when voters want government to help them solve their problems, not politicians who harangue them about whom to hate.
President Biden, who is perpetually underestimated, has great skill in seeking bipartisan solutions. Biden will probably reach out to the House Problem Solvers Caucus. It includes many Republicans who will be unfriendly to the obstruction and hate politics of far-right Republicans, who could form a problem creating caucus. He could also connect with Republican members from districts he carried in 2020 and other open-minded GOP moderates.
McCarthy’s third bad dream is that Biden and House Democratic leaders find a handful of moderate Republicans to vote with House Democrats on major compromise legislation that would be enacted with support from the Democratic Senate.
McCarthy’s fourth bad dream is that some moderate House Republicans get so fed up with the futility of life in the bitterly divisive and politically ugly Republican House that they simply resign midterm to seek greener pastures or more appealing careers.
America stands at a difficult place. Our people are worried. Our economy is shaky. Our citizens want political leaders to look out for them. Our president will seek bipartisan solutions.
McCarthy’s fifth bad dream is that Americans see the GOP House thwarting everything they want — and “throw the bums out.”
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives.