Every few months there is a respected opinion poll that asks how much credibility Congress has. Poll after poll finds that the public’s faith in Congress is at an all-time low, and sinking lower by the week. As a former state official, I follow the daily events in Washington, and the more I read, the more I’m convinced that it may be time to have a recall election to sweep out some of the crazies who are wielding too much power in Washington. Regrettably, there is no recall process, so there is no way to make the 535 members of the House and Senate accountable to voters other than regular elections.
It is hard to recite in one column all of the missteps that our elected federal officials are committing, but I’ll give it a try. Let’s start with Sen. Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican. Tuberville, whose claim to fame is that he was a successful college football coach, is holding up over 300 military promotions, including the vacancy of the joint chiefs of staff, because he doesn’t like the military’s abortion policy. Every officer in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines is affected by this holdup, but not one Republican senator has been able to get Coach Tommy to change his position.
The Senate is currently under the control of the Democratic Party, and New York’s Chuck Schumer is the majority leader. You’d think Schumer would try to force the Senate to act, but somehow the majority party refuses to try to break the logjam. It seems there’s a Senate rule that allows a member to stall a nomination, or a group of nominations, by placing a “hold” on them. This old-boy tradition is apparently too important to get the military promotions back on track.
Things aren’t much better in the case of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Sadly, last year McConnell suffered a bad fall at home, and since then he has been experiencing all kinds of problems that have affected his speech. He has had two startling public incidents that have exposed his underlying issues. But McConnell has been encouraged to stay in the job, because both parties would rather have him as leader than anyone else. There are a few senators capable of taking over that job, but the party leaders prefer to have an ailing leader rather than some new minority boss.
The case of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is probably the saddest of any Washington story. It took 15 rounds of voting for McCarthy to be elected speaker, and he holds on to his job so long as he can satisfy the Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right-wing zealots who came to Washington to burn down the government. Every day, the caucus members flex their muscles and the speaker jumps to placate them. Under rules that he agreed to, any member of the Republican Conference can move for his ouster, which would force an immediate vote on a new speaker.
Jerry Kremer was an Assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? firstname.lastname@example.org.