California Republican Kevin McCarthy was finally elected Speaker of the House on the fifteenth ballot Friday night after days of begging, threatening, and compromising with other Republicans.
This column has never been an advocate of McCarthy because he has never been a strong conservative or a strong leader. Last September, I labeled McCarthy’s “Commitment to America” a loser because it lacked specific promises to enact legislation that would roll back the damage President Biden has done and continues to do to our economy and national security. It didn’t get the real commitment of House Republicans because literally no one signed on to it.
McCarthy’s vague “Commitment” was a perfect demonstration of his lack of leadership skills. It was one of the reasons that Republicans didn’t win a larger majority in the House.
It’s gradually becoming clear what compromises McCarthy made in order to get the votes he needed to become speaker. Those compromises will make him one of the weakest House speakers in American history.
McCarthy reportedly agreed with conservative hold-outs to allow a single member to challenge the speaker and seek a no-confidence vote against him. That will mean many challenges — from Democrats and Republicans — that he will have to overcome in the next two years. He will have to compromise with the Republican rebels on legislation and investigations and a lot more. That could be a good thing. Or it could backfire.
One of McCarthy’s biggest problems will be defections — or further compromises — he will have to solve to pass bills. With the slim majority — 222 to 212 — he won’t be able to lose more than five votes on anything he wants to pass. That means many of the squishy Republicans — never mind the conservatives — will have a disproportionate say in whatever legislation passes. Those squishes won’t support any tough measures to secure the border, limit Biden’s “climate change” nonsense, impose spending cuts, and a whole lot more. Democrats, too, will offer “bipartisan” compromises that McCarthy will fall for.
One of the promises McCarthy reportedly made is to limit government spending to 2022 levels, which will have to be battled out on the debt ceiling bill. My old friend Quin Hillyer pointed out on Twitter — in a direct challenge to me and a few others — that McCarthy’s apparent compromise will mean a $75 billion cut in defense spending, which Quin contends should have made him an anathema to establishment Republicans.
Set aside for a moment Quin’s confusing me with establishment Republicans. As I have always maintained, cutting the defense budget is not a bad idea if it’s done correctly. The question is not only how much money the Pentagon gets to spend but — much more importantly — what the money is spent on.
The new National Defense Authorization Act increases Pentagon spending about $75 billion over what the Biden Administration requested, to about $858 billion. Some of the increases are to be well-spent on assets such as the sub-launched nuclear cruise missile (SLCM-N). A couple of our military leaders — the very few who haven’t knuckled under to Biden’s agenda of weakness and wokeness — have said that SLCM-N is essential to deterrence. They shouldn’t be ignored.
There is a lot that can be cut from the military budget without reducing deterrence or readiness. For example, part of the defense budget will pay for transgender surgeries. Part will pay for the “wokeness” training sessions that officers and troops are compelled to attend.
Anything that doesn’t increase readiness or the lethality of the force should be cut.
But McCarthy’s promise to cut spending to 2022 levels won’t solve those problems. We can waive goodbye to things we need such as SLCM-N because his across-the-board spending cut won’t affect the spending that is damaging the military.
McCarthy, by agreeing to cut military spending, may be attempting to appease the few isolationists who want to end our aid to Ukraine. Some of the $75 billion in cuts will, foolishly, reduce that aid.
House Republicans are busy planning a lot of investigations into Biden’s actions on things such as hiding the corruption that is rife within his family and his administration. That is all well and good, but Americans don’t care much about high-profile investigations because they don’t affect their lives. McCarthy’s agenda has to focus on legislation that attempts to fix those big problems. Hardly any of it will pass the Senate and what little does will be vetoed by Biden.
Investigations won’t solve the border mess, won’t reduce crime or inflation, or bring down the high price of food. Investigations should be done, but not at the price of slowing down the legislation.
The biggest reason to focus on legislation rather than investigations is to prove Republicans are a real opposition to Biden that stands for something and can lead us out of the mess he has created. Republican members of the House have to pass those measures to lay out an agenda that they — and whoever is the 2024 Republican nominee for president — can run on next year.
For example, Biden is pulling federal air marshals off airliners and redeploying them to the southern border to help “process” — i.e., release more illegal aliens into the country. That action lays us open for another attack like those we suffered on September 11, 2001. House legislation to prohibit that redeployment can be passed quickly.
Why not pass a “Bring Inflation Down Enforcement (“BIDEN”) Act”? Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, signed in 2021 and his $75 billion “Inflation Reduction Act” are both still spending buckets of money we don’t have in ways we can’t afford. The spending in both of those laws — which economists are blaming for inflation American families are suffering — should be cut off now.
There is a lot more that can and should be done. Republicans should take definite steps to reduce the crime wave that is engulfing the nation. How about cutting off federal highway funds and spending that supports states whose prosecutors refuse to punish criminals? All funding for states with cashless bail laws that put criminals back on the streets before the cops have finished writing their arrest reports should be cut off. Crime is an everyday problem for too many people and Republicans need to take the lead in reducing it.
The Biden administration’s new “Unified Regulatory Agenda” contains 332 new regulations that each will cost the economy at least $100 million per year. A bill should be passed to stop each and every one of those rules from going into effect.
At least four million illegal aliens have entered the United States since Biden became president. At least 844,000 have entered since October when FY 2023 began. Why not pass a law that requires Biden to secure the border and finish building Trump’s border wall?
So much can be done, but McCarthy will have trouble accomplishing anything other than flashy investigations that will have no effect on American’s lives. Between the Democrats and the Republican rebels and squishes — and his own lack of leadership skills — McCarthy will be the weakest House speaker in our history.