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Debating the debate in Congress

By now you’ve probably heard about U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) successful bid for Speaker of the House. Fingers were pointed, names were called, and hands were wrung before the final vote was held.

Pundits expressed daily dismay over delaying the swearing-in of new congressional members. Suddenly it seemed that national security was at risk without committee chairmanships. What’s worse, investigations into Hunter Biden, the Wuhan Lab, the Jan. 6th files, and many other egregious doings of the establishment and deep state were delayed roughly 96 hours. In essence, there was a great deal of debate about last week’s debates in Washington.

Conservatives are throwing congress into chaos, a Bloomberg article proclaimed. Yet chaos was not what we saw as all members of Congress gathered in the House Chamber together for the first time in years.

In truth, what we saw was refreshing. Actual debate, with actual roll call votes by members who were actually present for duty. It seemed the Pelosi era was gone for good.

For the past several years the Pelosi regime has shut the doors of Congress to the public, allowing committee meetings to take place remotely and votes “on the floor” to be done by proxy. When the 4,155-page $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package was passed by the U.S. Senate a few weeks ago, it was transferred to the House and Pelosi brought it to a floor vote in just a few hours. No public debate. No hashing out amendments in committee. Over 200 members of Congress didn’t even show up to vote, casting their votes by proxy.

But the debates over the Speaker vote were held in the public eye. One could watch members huddle for discussions, joking in the far corners and comparing notes. Conservative members Paul Gosar (Ariz.) and Matt Gaetz (Fla.) even had amicable conversations with none other than progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The horror!

So I was not a bit put off by a few days of wrangling in which a small group of conservative members, with no establishment backing, no choice committee assignments, and everything to lose, stood together on principle to achieve reforms for broken and bent Congress. And they did so despite accusations of belligerence, showboating, and obstructionism from the mainstream media and moderate Republicans, accusations reinforcing President Ronald Reagan’s words: “Too often character assassination has replaced debate in principle here in Washington. Destroy someone’s reputation, and you don’t have to talk about what he stands for.”

Members of both sides should learn from this occasion and step back from personal attacks. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) needs to argue his points without hack insults, refraining from snide comments calling fellow Congressmen “squatters” for the sole purpose of creating embarrassment. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) needs to back off the condescending comments about those who “aren’t on board” and realize such occasions are not military missions where good order and discipline mean saving life, limb and property — this is political debate. Alabama’s own Rep. Mike Rogers (R- Saks) needs to forego further threats to revoke committee assignments for those who don’t fall in line and certainly should never again lunge at a fellow congressional member.

Political posturing and grandstanding certainly get old. But an elected official should never mind healthy debate on an issue. “Consensus is the absence of leadership,” former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, meaning that if everyone automatically agrees without question or comment, then no one is really leading.

None of the machinations of the past week on the House floor were a concern for those who know the value of real debate. If anything, conservatives nationwide should be elated that rules and procedures and committee assignments were negotiated to more fully engage a conservative agenda for the American people. Indeed, we watched Congress running as it was originally intended, with real debate.

Real debate. The kind that is open, transparent, and sometimes bellicose.

Real debate. The kind that we haven’t seen in a Pelosi Congress for years.

Real debate. The kind that brings negotiated outcomes that may potentially make the congressional majority stronger.

Real debate. The kind that grown men and women should be able to handle.

Real debate. The kind that our founding fathers contemplated when they designed the legislative branch as one of the three coequal branches of this great democratic experiment.

Truth be told, I would be far more concerned if there had been no debate. This past week was healthy. It was truly democracy in action.

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