America’s electorate could get another rarely discussed lesson in civics and political issues, if Republicans fail to heed House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) admonition about the upcoming election of the next speaker of the House. Earlier this month, McCarthy won the House GOP nomination for the position defeating Rep. Andy Higgs (R-Ariz.), but securing the victory requires they take the majority. “We have to speak as one voice,” he warned his cohort. “We will only be successful if we work together, or we’ll lose individually.”

If the Republicans don’t do the right thing, McCarthy continued, “the Democrats can take the majority…and end up picking who the speaker is.”

McCarthy was alerting his constituents on what needed to be done on Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress when the House will vote on the Speaker post. Going into the midterm elections the Republicans felt they had a decisive edge on the Democrats and would secure enough new seats in the House to assure control. But they had a rude awakening when the expected “red wave” did not occur, reducing their margin of victory to around 222 seats to maybe 213 for the Dems. 

In effect, the GOP and McCarthy can only afford to lose a few Republican votes, and at least five House Republicans—Higgs, Bob Good (Va.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Matt Rosendale (Mont.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.)—are members of the conservative wing of the party and have already stated that McCarthy won’t get their vote. And several others seem to be sitting on the fence.

Should there be such an outcome, then Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, leading Democratic contender, could carry the day and step in to fill the leadership spot held for many years by Nancy Pelosi.

The reluctance to support McCarthy centers on such issues as his position to not slash the spending budget; his resistance to rules changes proposed by the Freedom Caucus; and whether he will commit to the impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary. Last week, McCarthy called for him to resign or face an investigation that could lead to his impeachment.

All of this could be academic if Jeffries prevails, and those favoring reparations will be exceedingly jubilant. He is one of nearly 200 co-sponsors of a bill to create a national commission to study and develop proposals on slavery reparations. Also, if he’s able to establish a consensus in the divided caucus, he would be in a prime position to continue some of the legislative moves already on the agenda that Pelosi put in place. When he announced his candidacy for the post, he declared, “I promise to prioritize and value input from every corner of the Caucus. … It will be my mission to make sure that every single Member of the Caucus has an authentic seat at the legislative table.”

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