The House is a Dysfunctional Place

Marjorie Taylor Greene says McCarthy must give her more ‘power’ to please GOP voters By Steven Greenhouse, Washington Post National Affairs, 12/11/1999

Wednesday’s election was a defeat for Speaker Newt Gingrich and Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Not surprisingly, many of his supporters credit him with “taking back the House,” as the final vote showed him with only 50.4 percent, and his allies have been pointing to the fact that “the numbers don’t lie” and that his loss was a referendum on the “stuck-in-the-mold” House GOP leadership. It’s a valid argument, but it overlooks the fact that the election wasn’t a referendum—in fact, it was a wash—and that the House had become a de facto political playground for Democrats.

For that, Gingrich should be grateful. If there is any single lesson to be learned from this year’s election, it is that Congress is a dysfunctional, dysfunctional, dysfunctional place. As has been evident for months now—and surely is now even more firmly and self-consciously evident to the GOP leadership and the members of the House Democratic Caucus, who went to extraordinary lengths in the summer of 1998 to sabotage the Republican legislative agenda in the House of Representatives—the party has yet to figure out how to govern in this manner. It’s not just that it isn’t clear what the GOP’s legislative program would be for the coming year, which was one of its few consistent themes in 1994 under Gingrich. It’s that the House Democratic Caucus has been completely dysfunctional for a year. It’s like they had been completely stymied by God and couldn’t get out of the way of the bus.

The Gingrich-DeLay-Schwartz-Reid strategy was to keep the House in line by running unruly members against other unruly members, until the opposition fell apart. The strategy worked for the most part, perhaps not quite as well as it worked for the 1994 Republican legislative agenda, but at least it worked for a while. At the end of the year, it became clear that the strategy had not been working so well. The Republicans in the House were in a free-for-all, and the opposition was still up in arms. Then

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