The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

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The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

Inside Congress’ chaos: House finally elects a leader, students urge self-education

HOUSE SPEAKER. Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson (R) was appointed Speaker of the House on Oct. 25. In his new role, Johnson will help negotiate legislation between the House, President, and Senate. (Image credit @speakermjohnson Official Instagram)

After three long, dysfunctional weeks, Congress finally approved a new House Speaker, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson (R), Oct. 25. For the better part of October, though a government shutdown was temporarily alleviated, one of Congress’ two main legislative bodies was without its key leader. For the first time in American congressional history, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R) was ousted from his role following a 216-210 vote on Oct. 3. This left the House in unprecedented, uncertain, and increasingly polarized territory, especially as McCarthy was removed by members of his own party.

Without a leader, “[Congress was] not able to pass any legislature at all; nothing will get in or out,” sophomore Desmond Rubenstein said. “I think it is a complete disaster.”

He found this chaos especially worrying because of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the Israel-Palestine conflict that would likely require US aid.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) had hinted at McCarthy’s removal for weeks, but the conflict peaked after McCarthy depended on bipartisan support to pass temporary spending legislation to avoid a shutdown. On Oct. 2, Gaetz officially filed a motion to depose McCarthy. Gaetz represents a growing number of far-right conservative legislators, organized into a coalition of about 40 representatives called the Freedom Caucus. They took issue with McCarthy’s bipartisanship that moved away from completely Republican values.

“The one thing everybody has in common is that nobody trusts Kevin McCarthy,” Gaetz said.

Ultimately, all Democrats voted to oust McCarthy, in addition to eight Republicans. (The four Democratic representatives for Minnesota voted in favor of removal, and the four Republican Minnesota representatives voted against it.) In the 22 days that the House stumbled to nominate and approve a leader, North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry served as interim speaker, based on McCarthy’s vacancy plan.

The role of the House Speaker, according to the National Constitution Center, involves negotiating legislation between the House, President, and Senate. The Speaker is also second-in-line to the presidency, in the event that the president and vice president are unfit to lead. Since Republicans currently have the majority in the House, they were expected to unite and nominate a single candidate for a speaker, and then the nominee must pass a vote of all the representatives to be approved. Due to the growing divisions between Republicans and Democrats, and the fractures within the Republican party, this process proved time-consuming.

“There are enough Republicans that if all the Republicans vote [together], they will be able to [approve a speaker],” Rubenstein said. The challenge stems from the fragments within the Republican Party. If the Freedom Caucus will not support a speaker’s bid, “then [the nominee] will need the support of Democrats,” he said.

It’s almost as if [the political parties] are no longer tools to represent what people want and instead, they represent their own very opposite ideas.

— Alba Markowitz Mulet

House Republicans initially nominated Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan–also the leader of the Freedom Caucus–for the next speaker. However, Jordan failed three votes in his bid, and on Oct. 20, he officially dropped out. Since McCarthy was removed, at least 11 Republicans joined the race, including Minnesota Rep. Tom Emmer, who was briefly nominated on Oct. 24 and then dropped out hours later. Late on Oct. 24, House Republicans nominated Johnson, and he was approved the next day in a 220-209 vote. By unifying the far-right members of the Freedom Caucus as well as the centrist Republicans, he received all the Republicans’ votes, while the 209 others voted to elect House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D).

Despite his ability to unify Republicans, Johnson echoes many of the same positions as the far-right representatives. He spread conspiracy theories about the validity of the 2020 election results and has consistently opposed legislation enacting abortion and

LGBTQ+ rights. Former President Donald Trump wrote on Oct. 25 on his social media forum, Truth Social, “My strong SUGGESTION is to go with the leading candidate, Mike Johnson, & GET IT DONE, FAST!”

Through this chaos, Rubenstein has learned the importance of staying up-to-date and understanding civics: “Understanding how our country operates is an integral part of … being a US citizen,” he said. He recommends taking the US Government and Citizenship elective and reading the news to assert this responsibility.

Junior Alba Markowitz Mulet believes that education about government and politics is an important step in reducing polarization. “It’s almost as if [the political parties] are no longer tools to represent what people want and instead, they represent their own very opposite ideas,” she said.

Though the House has now elected a Speaker, the exhaustive process speaks to widening divisions on Capitol Hill, both within the parties and between them. Once again, Congress’ temporary spending bill only funded the government until Nov. 17.

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About the Contributor
Sonia Kharbanda
Sonia Kharbanda, News Editor
Hi, I’m Sonia Kharbanda (she/her). I work as a News Editor for The Rubicon. At school, I play soccer and run track. I love to read and go on walks. I can be reached at [email protected].

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