Subpoenaing Hunter Biden, impeaching Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and stopping President Joe Biden’s plan to hire thousands of IRS agents. These big ticket items were supposed to be priorities in the House agenda, but after taking power following two years of full Democratic control of the government, Republicans’ plans could be delayed for weeks, months, or indefinitely, as the party fails to find a speaker of the House.
The chaos in the Capitol is stirring ire among House Republicans, the vast majority of whom support Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) for the role. Republican members who spoke with the Washington Free Beacon said they were powerless to do just about anything, such as fulfilling basic constituent services or setting staff up with emails.
“If we had elected Kevin McCarthy speaker we would have already voted to defund the 87,000 new IRS agents, new border security measures, and a select committee on China,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R., Fla.) told the Free Beacon. “We would also be sending notices to the Biden administration that we’re coming for answers on the FBI, Department of Justice, the Afghanistan withdrawal, and conflicts of interest surrounding the Biden family.”
Without a House speaker, the legislative body grinds to a halt. No members can be sworn in, introduce legislation, or issue subpoenas. For all intents and purposes, the United States currently doesn’t have a House of Representatives. But the failure to find a House speaker carries political consequences as well. The longer the fight drags on, the longer Biden, who is expected to run for reelection in 2024, goes without virtually any real oversight in the form of hearings and subpoenas.
Congress has proven itself effective at inflicting damage on a president or future candidate, as evidenced by investigations into Hillary Clinton and former president Donald Trump. Clinton faced over a year of scrutiny from House Republicans for her role in the Benghazi attacks as secretary of state and her use of a private email server to conduct professional business, which only ended after she lost her second bid for president in 2016. Democrats spent nearly four years investigating Trump over every facet of his administration, resulting in two impeachments and a failed reelection campaign.
Democrats, who told voters on the campaign trail that a Republican majority would mean few bills would get passed as they investigate Hunter Biden, and Republicans agree that oversight would be a chief priority in the new Congress. One senior staffer close to the Republican Oversight Committee said members had a day-by-day plan on various Biden administration officials they planned to subpoena. That project, which was to be publicly announced on Tuesday, is now on hold.
“The people who are voting against Kevin McCarthy in the Republican conference are aiding Joe Biden, aiding [House Minority Leader] Hakeem Jeffries, and aiding [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer. Because they are the reason we are not getting about the business we set out to do,” said Rep. Mike Lawler (R., N.Y.) on Fox News on Wednesday. “When it comes to Jim Jordan’s oversight on [the Judiciary Committee], guess what? Can’t do it, because of these folks. When it comes to securing our border, guess what? Can’t do it, because of these folks. When it comes to reining in wasteful spending under the Biden administration, guess what? Can’t do it, because of these folks.”
The Republican Party’s inability to find a speaker does not look like it will be resolved any time soon. One individual close to the negotiations, who identifies as a neutral party and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the anti-McCarthy voting bloc’s demands are untenable.
“What [Rep. Matt] Gaetz is asking for isn’t really possible if you want a functioning House,” the individual said. “McCarthy has to give everything away to make these people happy.”
The anti-McCarthy group of Republicans has made a number of demands, some publicly and others in backroom negotiations. Those demands include a vote on a number of bills including a balanced budget amendment and term limits. Rule change demands include requiring a two-thirds majority vote for all earmarks, committee spots, and a pledge from the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC, not to meddle in primaries.