Opinion: Republicans in Congress search for a way forward

With the major league playoffs underway, it’s a good time to use a famous baseball line to describe what’s happening with Republicans in Congress.

“Can’t anybody here play this game?”

That exasperated statement from Casey Stengel about the 1962 New York Mets could well apply to GOP lawmakers, who after winning control of the U.S. House have spent much of this year fighting each other, culminating in the ouster of their own Speaker.

In the hundreds of hallway interviews I’ve listened to with GOP lawmakers, the inability of Republicans to get on the same page has been striking.

“There’s a lot of frustration, a lot of different directions,” said U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, after yet another closed-door GOP meeting.

Republicans know they don’t like what Democrats are offering. But the GOP can’t seem to develop their own way forward.

When ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy cut a debt limit deal with President Biden to forge a two-year spending freeze — many House Republicans refused to accept it — but had no alternative.

While Republicans promised ‘regular order’ on spending, a key House panel hasn’t produced the 12 bills that fund the government.

Faced with a government shutdown on Sept. 30, House Republicans couldn’t pass anything and had to rely on Democrats to approve a short-term funding plan.

It’s almost like the prototypical GOP member of Congress now is not a ‘law maker’ per se — because laws are not really their goal.

For example, House Republicans this year passed major bills on domestic energy production, health care, COVID fraud, and border security funding — but haven’t sent those bills to the Senate for action.

Over in the Senate, Republicans have been working with Democrats to craft spending and defense bills — but the seeds of GOP turmoil are also evident.

One Republican Senator has blocked the promotions of hundreds of career military officers. Another blocked all Justice Department nominations. A third stopped all State Department nominees.

It’s the same story on legislation. One GOP Senator blocked three government funding bills, while another vowed to block anything that is not a government funding bill.

That may be a solid strategy for obstruction — but it’s not really a plan for governing.

And as House Republicans struggled to pick a Speaker, some lawmakers said this week that the GOP needs to try a new legislative strategy.

“We need a plan more than a person,” said U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark.

Like Casey Stengel said — can’t anybody here play this game?

The answer right now inside the GOP is — maybe not — and a new House Speaker may not make much of a difference.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com

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