16.4 C
Monday, May 29, 2023
HomePoliticsIn Congress, breaking unwritten rules that encouraged politeness and made things possible...

In Congress, breaking unwritten rules that encouraged politeness and made things possible is becoming the new norm


Then House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ordered an investigation in the Manhattan District Attorney’s ongoing criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump, he broke with domestic practices and norms.

And the three committee chairmen tasked with McCarthy’s investigation may be stepping outside federal jurisdiction attempted investigation of a prosecutor.

If a scholar of the legislature, I study how practices and procedures have changed over time. This move is just one in a growing list of norm-breaking events that have colored how the House conducts business during the 118th Congress.

When McCarthy gave government footage of the 6 January uprising to a single media outlet, he broke a longstanding congressional norm to broadly release government information to media outlets.

When multiple, unrepentant Republican representatives harassed Democratic President Joe Biden during his February 2023 State of the Union address, they violate standards of conduct for the occasion. The last person who harassed a sitting president during the State of the Union address was Rep. Joe Wilson, of South Carolina, in 2009 when President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress. Wilson apologized.

U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene and other Republican members of Congress respond during President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address.
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The 118th Congress broke standards from the start

Even before this session of Congress began in January 2023, Republican members of the House broke a norm forcing 15 ballots in four days before voting to make McCarthy speaker. The last Speaker ballot that required multiple votes was in 1923, when nine were needed.

But when McCarthy seats on the House Intelligence Committee to Democratic Delegates Adam Schiff, who once chaired the committee, and Eric Swalwell, both of California, he went much further. Historically both sides tend to avoid politicization national security. Removing members with the kind of institutional knowledge that Schiff and Swalwell possess can have serious consequences for the proper functioning of the committee.

The House also voted to replace Rep. Ilhan Omar to removeanother Democrat, from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

In the House, the Republican and Democratic leaders traditionally determine which members they nominate for committee assignments. Despite this standard, McCarthy refused to allow Schiff or Swalwell a seat on the Intelligence Committee after Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries have put their name forward.

To blame Representatives Swalwell and Schiff of abuses of the panel during the previous two congresses, McCarthy said he denied the two representatives’ seats on the committee for reasons of national security. And he forced a floor vote to oust Omar her anti-Semitic remarkseven though she apologized.

Standing in front of a podium, a woman speaks while two men watch with folded hands.
U.S. Representatives Ilhan Omar (center), Eric Swalwell (left), and Adam Schiff speak at a news conference about congressional committee assignments.
Kevin Dietsch via Getty Images News

House Democrats claim the move was McCarthy’s political payback because the House, under former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, had voted to remove it Republican Delegates Marjorie Taylor Greene And Paul Gosar from their committees because of inflammatory remarks the two made. Some of their comments including threats of violence against MPs.

That wasn’t the first time Pelosi denied the Republican minority leader his choice for committee nominations. During the 117th Congress, when she and the House Democratic leadership populated the January 6 committee to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol, McCarthy wanted to seat two well-known Trump loyalists: Representatives Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio . Pelosi turned them down.

When standards are ignored

Traditionally, if a member of Congress committed an offense that did not reach the level of an ethics investigation, their leadership would decide how to punish them. Such was the case in 2019, when the minority leader at the time McCarthy now has former Iowa Rep. Steven King on his commission assignments, citing King’s racist remarks.

But McCarthy didn’t punish Greene – Pelosi did.

At the time, Republicans warned Pelosi she set a precedent – or new norm – that the majority party in the House determines committee assignments for the minority party.

“If this is the new standard, I look forward to continuing the standardMcCarthy said.

The governance standards in the House provide stability and clarity about what behavior is and is not allowed among members. But when those norms are violated, a series of decentralized consequences can follow.

Partisan fighting pay

Republican Congressmen attacking Democrats and Democratic Congressmen attacking Republicans has long been a way for elected officials to grab voters’ attention. But the divisive rhetoric and deeply partisan behavior of office holders in recent decades has only driven the two parties further apart, especially in the 2000s.

In that period it became clear that politicians are whipping up their base by using the politics of outrage could score political points and replenish their political coffers at the same time. That realization has changed political calculus.

Today, donors reward shocking behavior. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, for example, raised $3 million after voting on January 6, 2021 to block the results of the presidential election.

Greene raised $3.2 million after just three months in office as news broke that she embraced conspiracy theories and previously threatened violence against Democratic politicians. Perhaps looking for similar results, when McCarthy kicked Schiff out of the House Intelligence Committee, Schiff went on TikTok announces his candidacy for the Senate.

Whether this extreme behavior by elected officials is motivated by political sole proprietorship or money, or both, Americans are watching and many do not approve of the behavior. A February Gallup Poll has Congressional approval hovers around 18%.

Latest stories