Last week House Speaker John Boehner resigned after months of sniping at his leadership by vociferous conservative members of the House. In some ways, Boehner’s resignation was necessary. He is a fine man and conscientious public servant, but he is not the agile media savvy communicator House Republicans need to promote an effective opposition to Barack Obama. Time will tell if House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who is now running for Speaker, will prove to be a more effective and responsive leader than Boehner.
Conservatives like myself would love to see the insidious Planned Parenthood be defunded and for there to be more consistently forceful and effective opposition to Obama Administration policies and the criminal incompetence of this administration. However, more effective policies require understanding that being a congressional policymaker is an adult business for serious and substantive public servants. Being a member of the House of Representatives is not for those with an antigovernment Alinskyite bomb throwing mindset. The House needs to be for individuals desirous of representing their 435 districts in a conscientious and servant like manner and being dedicated to advancing the national interest. Today’s House Homeland Security Committee release of an insightful report on Americans fighting for ISIS is an example of a bipartisan attempt to advance the national interest. Once you are elected to the House or Senate you need to check infantile anti-establishment rhetoric at the door. You cannot engage in perpetually childish bleating about the “Washington cartel” like the normally admirable Ted Cruz frequently does or publicly libel the Senate leader of your party. It’s time to put on your big boy and girl clothes and attitudes once you take the oath of office.
Congressional public service requires realism and understanding the Constitution and the unique rules of the House of Representatives and Senate. It includes knowing how to count yeas and nays on issues. The Speaker of the House, while seeking to advance the objectives of their political party, must also look out for the national interest being two steps removed from the President in the line of succession. He or she must also be careful to do nothing to damage the public image or governmental effectiveness of the House. The Speaker must be attuned to the ability of individual members to carry out the interests of their electorates even if they engage in rhetoric or pursue policies the Speaker finds repugnant. Conversely, the Speaker must also be attentive to concerns expressed by members of his or her own party that their views and legislative priorities are not being attended to in congressional policymaking. Failure in this last area played a significant role in compelling Boehner to resign.
At the same time, some of our fellow conservative firebrands need to get over their suicidal obsession with shutting down the government when they don’t get their way. While the government does not touch every aspect of everyone’s life, most members of the public don’t like it when they can’t visit the Smithsonian, national parks and historic sites, or are unable to access information from government websites because of a shutdown.
This does not mean we should not fight the Obama Administration tooth and nail. We should continue sending it legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, diminishing Obamacare, not funding a U.S. Embassy in Havanna, rejecting the Iran nuclear agreement, defunding Obama’s illegal immigration amnesty, and other measures until the administration realizes it will have to scale back its priorities. Not until we elect a Republican President in 2017 and have control both congressional chambers, can we began repealing Obama Administration policies wholesale and begin implementing alternative policies. We also need to take steps to drastically reform the chronically dysfunctional budget process which brings about these repeated budgetary cliffhangers at the end of federal fiscal years.
Frustrated conservatives also need to realize that with separation of powers divided government will produce gridlock. We must also understand the Senate’s unique and inefficient rules which require 60 votes to bring an issue to the Senate floor. I would prefer that this be changed to where only 51 votes are needed to bring an issue to the floor. Boehner’s resignation is a chance for House conservatives to prove they are capable of being an effective opposition to Obama and are not just incendiary rhetorical bomb throwers who cling to childish antiestablishment rhetoric instead of dedicating themselves to producing effective conservative and reformist legislation.