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Once again, Congress has one job on January 6th
Voters did not give MAGA the authority to lead or govern. We tried that six years ago, and two years ago we saw the result.
Two years ago: I remember this date minute-by-minute, as if a computer recorded it in my brain. My family and I, the day before, had attended my wife’s grandfather’s (“Papa”) funeral. On the way back home from central Georgia, we stopped at Tanger Outlet. It was there we listened to the carnage at the Capitol, exchanging texts of shock and horror with my brother Jay and The Racket News colleague David Thornton. On that day, the Senate had one job, to certify the election of Joe Biden as POTUS.
Then-President Donald Trump had one wish: to steal the election under the banner of “Stop the Steal,” a collection of a thousand conspiracies, without evidence, that Trump could not have lost, since his loyal base would never permit such a thing to happen. Since that day, more than 950 of Trump’s loyal base has been charged with various felonies related to the storming of the Capitol. According to USA Today, the average sentence has been 16 months in federal prison, for the 350-odd cases which have gone on to sentencing.
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Congress had one job on January 6th, 2021, which fell to the Senate, though the House remained as a last-resort arbiter if the Senate could not determine who won under the arcane Election Count Act of 1887. That law has finally been clarified, noting that the Vice President’s role in certifying the Electoral College results is “ministerial” and titular only, and also raising the threshold for objections. No longer will the infamous Eastman Memo have some foothold to encourage fantasies among lawmakers.
It seems fitting that two years to the day from Congress having one job, that in usual and customary fashion, is dispensed with based on clear and convincing documentation. In usual and customary fashion, normally the political party in control of the House of Representatives has its power structure well entrenched going into a new Congress. But not this year.
For the 118th Congress, voters did not hand Republicans a large majority in the House. In fact, just 10 seats separate the two parties (there’s one vacancy, Democrat Aston Donald McEachin died on November 28th). The election of a Speaker of the House is the only duty Congress has before it can conduct any other business. Until then, the House has one job: to keep voting again and again until a Speaker is elected.
For those questioning why we’re on 12 ballots and counting: what else is Congress supposed to do? They can either adjourn to discuss things, or they can nominate candidates for Speaker and vote on it. Those are the only tasks the House is allowed until a Speaker is elected by a majority of those voting. There are 434 sitting Representatives, half of which is 217, plus one equals 218. There are 212 Democrats, meaning it would take 6 Republicans voting for a Democrat-sponsored candidate (if all Democrats voted as a bloc) to win the Speakership. That hasn’t happened.
It only takes five Republicans to block any candidate from the position, and Kevin McCarthy’s shortfall is now up to 20. The math has to change for a Speaker to be elected. It’s going to take across-the-aisle compromise to find the next Speaker, and I can’t imagine a better outcome. The gap between MAGA Republicans and non-MAGA is actually much larger than non-MAGA Republicans and centrist Democrats. That’s important, because it’s likely the only solution is going to come from the center.
What we don’t see is a mob incited by the sitting president storming the Capitol. Instead, a weakened Trump sits in Mar-a-Lago, posting on Truth Social. Trump has his Twitter privileges restored, but has not tweeted. Trump is sitting on over $100 million in donated funds, but largely hasn’t spent it. The legal system is slowly creeping toward charging him with some very serious crimes. Trump will need his Leadership PAC funds to pay his lawyers—lawyers who, unlike the addled Rudy Giuliani and the despicable Sidney Powell, will demand their cash up front.
In retrospect, I think our government has handled the January 6th events as well as we can expect it to. I have always thought that going after a thousand or more people was counter to building some kind of unity, but now I can see that the fish has always stunk at the head. It’s the McCarthys and Jordans and Gaetzes and Taylor-Greenes who need to be excommunicated from our political discourse. Going after the thousand, a large number of whom were caught up in a moment (though USA Today tracked 78 who were members of the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers), is to me a waste of prosecutorial billable time that taxpayers are funding by the clock-minute.
Though in dark corners of the Internet, or on Sean Hannity’s radio program, you still hear tales of the coming civil war, I think maybe the time of mobs is fading. Both parties should be realizing by now that mobs haven’t accomplished what they were designed to do. The leaders of the mobs are feeling the push into irrelevance as the two extremes self-annihilate like a particle meeting its anti-particle.
The task of Congress this January 6th is not to give in to the rush of politics. It’s to help those who need to be pushed into their good nights cross over into the void. Let there be 13, or 130, ballots. But let the MAGA leaders know they will not rule this body politic. Voters did not give MAGA the authority to lead or govern. We tried that six years ago, and two years ago we saw the result.
It’s fitting that Congress has one job today, just like it did two years ago. But this time, we have the opportunity to do it right.