Editorial: Going forward, adult supervision is badly needed for House GOP

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Sometimes you can see an outcome from a mile away, and it’s still a shock when it happens.

So it was when a sliver of the House GOP succeeded in removing Kevin McCarthy as speaker, the first time in American history the leader of the U.S. House has been ousted. His standing seemed precarious from the start in January, when it took 15 votes from his GOP colleagues to secure the number needed for the prize. With members such as Florida’s Matt Gaetz and Colorado’s Lauren Boebert seemingly interested more in preening for their Trumpian base than cutting legislative deals, it seemed just a matter of time until this moment arrived.

Still, North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry’s theatrically intense gaveling of the Tuesday vote was bracing all the same. McHenry will serve as interim speaker for the time being.

Now, as the country waits for a dysfunctional caucus to determine who among them will be appointed this thankless task, we need to take stock of this moment. Now that the dust has settled, a little, the GOP must take steps to ensure we don’t suffer through this chaos gain.

First, let’s review. Shame on the Republican majority for failing in its most basic of duties — governing.

Or, in this case, for punishing McCarthy for daring to do just that when he struck deals with Democrats to protect the nation’s credit and keep the government functioning, albeit briefly.

Note to the eight House Republicans who torpedoed McCarthy’s young speakership: Democrats control the other congressional chamber and, oh yeah, the White House. You have to understand you’re part of our crucial system of checks and balances, now under existential threat. Throwing a tantrum until you get your way doesn’t count as a political strategy.

There was a time not that long ago when politics was viewed as the art of the possible. Strike your best deal and declare victory. That notion is beginning to seem alarmingly quaint.

So to the future: McCarthy has said he isn’t running for reinstatement. Someone needs to oversee the chamber. The speaker is second in line to the presidency. This isn’t a game.

There’s no obvious successor, and the scramble to succeed McCarthy is sure to be a lurid spectacle. Whoever ends up with the job ought to take it only on the condition that they not be subject to the same restrictions that made McCarthy’s early exit practically a foregone conclusion.

To win the favor of Gaetz and co., back in January, McCarthy ended up agreeing to House rules that allowed any single member to demand a vote on whether to remove him. Gaetz, a thorn in McCarthy’s side all year long, took advantage, necessitating the vote. No matter that the vast majority of the GOP conference supported McCarthy and wanted no part of this.

To put that in context, in the previous Congress only a majority of members of the House could put Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s job in jeopardy. Even the most skilled politicians would find running the notoriously rambunctious institution under the conditions to which McCarthy was subject (or subjected himself) nearly impossible.

What just happened is bad for democracy whatever side of the political spectrum you’re on.

Democrats may enjoy watching Republicans flailing. But no one’s interests are served by chaos and dysfunction on this level.

The first order of business for the adults in the GOP conference is to make clear to the upstarts that there will be no replay. November will be here before you know it, and we’ll be back to tedious shutdown politics. The next speaker, hopefully enjoying something of a honeymoon with fellow Republicans, needs to make clear that keeping the government open will be a negotiation, not a decree. The speaker-to-be-named-later will drive the best bargain possible — but it will have to be a bargain.

The process isn’t beginning promisingly, unfortunately. McHenry in his interim role decided the first order of business was to punish Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders by taking away their “hideaway” offices in the Capitol building — traditionally a perk both sides have yielded the other no matter which party was in power.

McHenry’s reasoning appeared to be that the Democrats allowed McCarthy’s speakership to sink when they could have saved him — in the name of the institution, of course. But McCarthy offered Democrats nothing in return. They were under no obligation to save the GOP from itself. Punishing them in this case won’t further the cause of eventual cooperation.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail once the sting of McCarthy’s removal eases. We’re not holding our breath.

But we are holding out hope, maybe against our better judgment, that this sad episode will further a move toward detente between the parties in the House.

Matt Gaetz should be a sideshow spectacle, not a power broker.

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