It’s no secret that Congress is unpopular. The most recent Gallup poll found that only 22% of Americans approved of how Congress was handling its job. But why is Congress so unpopular? It all stems from the House of Representatives becoming increasingly dysfunctional and ego-driven, turning what once was a highly regarded institution of democracy into an absolute trainwreck.
The dysfunction of the House was on full display during the vote for Speaker of the House two weeks ago. The vote for speaker is usually a routine process, as the majority of speakership votes have only taken one ballot. However, a group of ultra-conservatives headlined by known sex trafficker Matt Gaetz and Colorado firebrand Lauren Boebert led an intra-party opposition to Kevin McCarthy to force multiple rounds of voting, the first time this occurred since 1923. In their various nominating speeches for their preferred speaker candidates — including representatives Jim Jordan (R-OH), Byron Donalds (R-FL) and yes, even Donald Trump — they brought up generic talking points about how Washington is broken and how McCarthy represents the status quo and wouldn’t change anything.
While they’re correct about McCarthy being a sleazebag establishment figure, they failed to recognize that one of the reasons Washington is broken is because of lawmakers like them holding up the legislative process. The holdout from the “Never Kevin caucus” resulted in 15 rounds of voting for a speaker. As a result, representatives were unable to be sworn in until the speaker was elected, meaning that as the vote occurred, the House had no members and essentially didn’t exist. The prolonged vote also delayed the distribution of committee assignments, establishment of House rules and the ability to pass any legislation. And while four days are arguably insignificant in the grand scheme of the 118th Congress, the fact that this group of conservative rebels intentionally held the hostage in voting for a speaker — despite the fact that McCarthy was going to win eventually — is a damning indictment of how volatile the House has become. This volatility is likely to increase during this session of Congress, as McCarthy made many concessions in order to get the votes for speaker that could lead to ousting him as speaker and a potential government shutdown.
But even if the speaker vote only took one round of voting, the House in the 118th Congress was bound to be problematic. Despite McCarthy proclaiming the Republican’s new house majority as a “new beginning,” in reality it’s going to be a step backwards for America as they seek to play the role of obstructionist to the Biden administration. This will likely stall many of Biden’s legislative goals, rendering this Congress ineffective as the House and Democratic-controlled Senate deadlock. But House Republicans are likely to pursue investigations and culture war-influenced policy just to boost their ego. The most notable one of these is an investigation into Hunter Biden and the Biden family, as the House Oversight Committee website proclaims that, “Members of the Biden family have a pattern of peddling access to the highest levels of government to enrich themselves.” Of course, these are the same Republicans who have vigorously defended the Trump family over the same accusations. It’s also more than likely that the House will impeach Biden at some point during this Congress just so Republicans can brag that Biden was impeached. Similar to Trump’s first impeachment, the chances of Biden being removed from office are very low, but Republicans will nonetheless probably go for it to boost their fragile egos.
As if this dysfunctional and partisan weaponizing of the House wasn’t bad enough, things are made worse by the reality that the House has become a cesspool of ideologues who care more about their national profiles and name recognition than passing legislation. These figures are found on both the left and the right, including representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). There’s also representatives who are just a magnet for controversy, most notably scandal-plagued compulsive liar George Santos (R-NY). I would be shocked if any of the names I just mentioned or any similar representatives pass any meaningful legislation during this session of Congress.
To adjourn, the House of Representatives is a broken institution that will not improve with the hyper-partisanship and demagogic figures that will come to define the 118th Congress. While some legislation may be passed, House Republicans will likely be more focused on impeaching Biden and figuring out what to do about George Santos.