Editor’s note: Big Tent Ideas always aims to provide balancing perspectives on the hottest issues of the day. In the column below, Nebraska Republican Party State Central Committee member Chris Chappelear questions Nebraska Rep. Don Bacon’s plan to work with Democrats to elect a moderate GOP speaker should House Minority Kevin Leader McCarthy’s speaker bid fail. A counterpoint column can be found here, where Rep. Bacon argues that Republicans should be prepared to work with Democrats should McCarthy not win the speakership.
Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans are running straight into a minefield with the Jan. 3 speaker vote, with no sign of slowing down.
Despite his allies offering agreeable compromises on rule changes to at least five members who make up the “Never Kevin” movement, then threatening punishment, including kicking them off their committees, McCarthy still might not have the votes to become speaker.
Conversely, more moderate members such as the Republican Main Street Caucus and 15 members from battleground districts are issuing letters saying they will vote for McCarthy as long as it takes. Some members of the Republican Governance Group even took to wearing “O.K.” buttons to show their support for “Only Kevin.”
Then there is my own congressman, Don Bacon of Nebraska.
He signed onto the “Only Kevin” battleground district letter — but only after spending six weeks sharing with the media his plan to work with House Democrats to install an “acceptable” moderate speaker, in the event McCarthy fails in his bid.
For someone who insists he is a conservative and not a RINO, his plan is simply inexcusable. I don’t care who you are — absent a constitutional crisis, working with the opposite party to install a speaker is a step too far.
The main problem with Bacon’s plan is that it requires Democrats to vote for his choice of speaker. Now, I’m old enough to remember in previous election cycles that Republicans, including Bacon in his first race, attacked their opponents because their first votes will be to elect a Democrat as speaker.
Telling voters that it didn’t matter what else their opponents would do in office — the speaker vote is all that they needed to care about. But now it’s okay, commendable even, to work with Democrats to elect a moderate speaker instead of working with his own party members?
Another problem Bacon has isn’t that he’s willing to use his leverage to counter the “Never Kevin” members. It’s that he doesn’t have any leverage to begin with. There won’t be enough Democrats to cross over for a moderate Republican — the only plausible outcome is that Bacon and a few other moderate Republicans cross the aisle and vote for a Democrat speaker.
Which makes Bacon’s statements to the media all the more absurd. He lambasts the “Never Kevin” movement for going against the will of the majority of the House GOP Conference.
“Teams win. Fractured teams lose.” He has said that because McCarthy got 85% of the internal House GOP vote, the dissenters should just give up seeking an alternative, or they risk helping the Democrats and undermine the Republican Conference. And he declared that the House GOP will not be “held hostage” by the rabble rousers.
But isn’t that exactly what Representative Bacon is doing?
Threatening to install a speaker with Democratic votes if his opponents won’t back down and do what he says is not the way to bring unity in the party, particularly with such a slim majority. But the only difference between Bacon and the “Never Kevin” members I can see is that Bacon was handpicked by McCarthy to run in the first place. So, he gets a pass.
Despite the mental gymnastics required to push for both “Only Kevin” and a Democrat-supported speaker candidate, Rep. Bacon and the other “Only Kevin” members have a plan to get around violating their pledge to vote for a sitting member other than McCarthy — and that’s to vote for retiring member, Fred Upton of Michigan.
I think if you’re going to take a stand and pledge to vote for McCarthy no matter how long it takes, then at least have the integrity to stick with it and not look for loopholes.
All of this mess leads me to ask what exactly does Bacon think he’s doing? Is he trying to be clever or something?
Bacon, and any Republican that goes along with his plan for a Democrat-backed, moderate speaker, has to know that they can expect a primary challenger for just floating that idea, let alone if they actually follow through with it.
And in the end, that might be for the best.
It doesn’t matter if McCarthy or someone else becomes speaker — opening the door to relying on Democrats to get over the finish line is not worth the chaos that will follow.
Chris Chappelear is the author of “Remaking the Right” and serves on the Nebraska Republican Party State Central Committee. You can find him on Twitter @chrischappelear.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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