Maxwell Marcello | Staff Writer
George Washington once said, “Let us rise to a standard where the wise and honest can repair.” One look at the 118th Congress and it becomes abundantly clear that the wise and honest must be on sabbatical.
At the eleventh hour on Saturday, the United States Congress miraculously passed a stopgap funding bill that will fund the government for 45 more days, or until Nov. 17, averting a government shutdown. Despite the shortcomings of this bill, I half-expected the country to erupt into celebration akin to the repeal of the 18th amendment or victory in the second world war – Congress miraculously accomplished something important through bipartisan compromise.
Although this crisis was completely preventable, the government finally operated as it was intended to. Because of this stopgap funding, millions of federal employees will continue to get paid and the millions of Americans who depend on those employees will have the services essential to their daily lives uninterrupted.
Instead of celebration from these developments, the response I saw was civil war. For the first time in American history, a sitting speaker of the House of Representatives was ousted from the post. Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s dismissal was masterminded not by Democrats but by extremist factions within his own party. U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the ringleader of the anti-McCarthy Republicans, made good on his threats to challenge McCarthy if he compromised with Democrats to pass the spending bill. Gaetz introduced a motion to vacate on Tuesday and received unanimous support from Democrats and eight Republicans to ultimately terminate McCarthy’s speakership.
While the legacy of this move remains to be seen, I cannot understate what a landmark precedent Gaetz has established and the uncharted course the House is undertaking. It appears that Gaetz miscalculated the backlash he would receive from his own party.
Gaetz, a long-time advocate for far-right policies, has now awoken the ire of the agitators of yesterday. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, a polarizing firebrand in his own right, wrote a truculent column in the Washington Post and did not mince his words – Gaetz needed to be expelled from the House of Representatives.
While the Republican Party devours itself, Democrats are also divided albeit not within the walls of the Capitol. Democratic voters are at odds with politicians who passed an emergency funding resolution that explicitly excluded spending for Ukraine. They, much like certain wings of the GOP, conclude that it would have been far better to force a government shutdown than compromise on politics.
It will be Nov. 17 soon and Congress will be back where it started. Except this time, Congress will be more hostile toward any form of appropriation compromise.
This is why both sides must be vociferously condemned for perpetuating the attitude that political gain is far more important than an operating state. Forcing a shutdown should never be an option, as they do far greater harm to those with the least power in Washington: the federal workforce. Working-class Americans trying to keep afloat are thrown into an unnecessary period of financial stress during government shutdowns. Mail carriers, air traffic controllers and food inspector all suffer during shutdowns.
The aftermath of the rapid leadership change is sure to linger on Capitol Hill for years to come. One half of the United States Congress will lack formal leadership for the foreseeable future. All the while, millions of federal employees are currently bracing for impact since previous shutdowns have ranged from a few days to over a month.
I understand, these developments may sound grim and the natural response is feeling hopeless and powerless. We may not be led by the wise and honest, but, we the constituents, can force the politicians to rise to a higher standard.
Demand that representatives set aside politics to keep the government open even if it means compromising. Should we fail, iniquitous political actors like Gaetz will only feel more emboldened in their pursuit for power, making life more difficult for all Americans regardless of politics.