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House Speaker Mike Johnson

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) needed Democrats to narrowly avert the government shutdown that loomed large if Congressional budget legislation was not passed by Saturday, March 23. Many Republicans did not vote for the budget legislation; Democrats saved the day. Some Republicans would rather shut government down, inconveniencing, if not disabling, millions of people, than to do their job and work with their colleagues across the aisle to pass legislation. What is wrong with these ridiculous Republicans! Why are they so opposed to doing their work?

Republican dysfunction has been a byproduct of the 45th President’s confusion. He still keeps insisting that he won the 2020 election, when it is clear that he did not. His intransience led to the violent insurrection of January 6, 2021, and has apparently split the Republican party. There are those who believe in the Constitution and compromise, and there are those who believe in disruption. The worse of that pack is Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia Republican who seems better suited for a circus than the halls of Congress. She is loud, rude, and out of control yet, with the support of a handful of her colleagues, she can bring Congressional activities to such a screeching halt, that the body couldn’t even pass gas without drama.

Republican dysfunction has become so challenging that dozens of members say they won’t run for another term. Others are leaving, retiring, in the middle of their term because so little is getting done. While I acknowledge their right to resign whenever they want to, I think they are cheating their constituents. They ran for two-year terms. They accepted salaries, staff, offices, met with constituents. Stepping down in the middle of their two-year term is disruptive and costly, and it leaves their constituents without representation. While the Republican resignations of Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Ken Buck (R-CO) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) narrow the dominant party’s majority, I think it’s selfish and in very bad form because these representatives don’t like the way Congress works anymore and are tired of the far right and their shenanigans. Why not stay, call it out, and change it? The ridiculous Republicans are more afraid of the former President than they are of their own shadows, yet if they called him out, perhaps others would look and notice that the emperor is not wearing clothes, and indeed is stark naked beneath the cloak that is woven from lies, bombast, vitriol, and absurdity.

Special elections are costly. One estimate says that each one can cost at least a million dollars. Other estimates (depending on the Congressional District) say the tab can be much more. The members of Congress who choose to quit their jobs don’t lose anything because they refused to serve their term out, but how does this affect their staff? Presumably, their replacements would keep everyone on, but nothing is certain. Do these rats who just jumped off sinking ships have any consideration for others, or are they just taking the easy way out?

If Republican dysfunction were simply a Republican problem, I’d gleefully lick my chops and make fun of them. But this Republican problem is an American problem, as evidenced by the number of times we have avoided a government shutdown in the last several months. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries deserves credit for choosing government efficiency over partisan bickering as he led his caucus to vote for the compromise. But Speaker Johnson is skating on thin ice. The obstreperous Marjorie Taylor Greene has vowed to remove him from the speakership because she did not get her way. If she proceeds with her threat, count on progress on anything—Ukraine, Israel, or the border—to be delayed until Republicans can get their acts together. With the Republican margin shrinking, we can likely count on several weeks of drama before there is a new speaker. The only thing that might save Republicans is the fact that their dysfunction might become an electoral issue.

In the interest of bipartisanship, let me say that Democrats have their own brand of dysfunction, which manifests in vocal opposition to President Biden over Gaza (although I agree with the Squad, Senator Schumer (D-NY) and others on this one). Democrats have wings, but we aren’t throwing flames. And the only losers in this Republican farce are the American people.

Dr. Julianne Malveaux, a former college president, is an economist, author, and commentator. [email protected].

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