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Marjorie Taylor Greene Doesn’t Run the Government After All

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Although I usually find legislative processes to be a good remedy for insomnia, I followed the attempt by the often entertaining — especially when she doesn’t intend to be — Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to revive the Hastert rule until it crashed and burned.

House Speaker Mike Johnson easily blocked an ill-planned attempt by his GOP colleague from Georgia to oust him from his position.

And that’s a good thing, too, if you believe Congress has a bigger job to do than help grandstanders such as Greene, a star in Donald Trump’s MAGA movement, cash in on what has become known widely as the “attention economy.”

Although Johnson’s conservatism is solid enough to cause alarm in Democratic circles, Greene has found him not right-wing enough.

Greene called for his ouster if he did not meet her list of policy demands. Reports from behind closed doors in their talks revealed that she and her less camera-hungry ally Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, presented a list of policy demands on some very important issues

They included a cutoff in aid to Ukraine, a defunding of the special counsel probes of Trump and a return to the Hastert rule, named for disgraced former House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois.

Hastert, you may recall, was sentenced to 15 months in prison in a hush money case that revealed he was being accused of sexually abusing young boys while he was a teacher in Yorkville, Illinois.

His “rule,” which was never a formal rule, as much as Republicans often have followed it like one, means no legislation can be voted on without support from a majority of the House majority. That “majority of the majority” works for you if you hold the majority, which Republican, at present, do not.

So, last week, for a second time, Democrats joined most Republicans to block Greene and other GOP hard-liners from taking the speaker’s gavel from their own party’s leader. The vote was a landslide: 359 to 43 and seven voting “present.” All but 39 Democrats voted with Republicans to save Johnson’s speakership.

Only 11 Republicans voted to let Greene’s motion move forward.

Triumphant, Johnson told reporters that he hoped this vote would mark “the end of the personality politics and the frivolous character assassination that has defined the 118th Congress.”

 

“The end”? That might be too much to ask in this era of deep divides, partisan gridlock and relentless showboating by those who seem to seek a monopoly on the attention economy.

But those of us who share the pragmatic belief that Congress should seek ways to find common ground and “get things done” could derive hope in Greene’s failed lurch toward autocracy.

Ever since Republicans narrowly retook control of the House in 2022, energized by Trumpist disdain for the Washington “swamp,” such necessary tasks as avoiding a government shutdown or preventing a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt have had to work around a dedicated hardcore far-right opposition to pass the needed legislation.

As a result, Democrats have gained more clout at the expense of the hard right, much to the chagrin of the GOP’s outrage caucus, of which Greene is a loud leader.

Miffed that her outrage failed to prevent Johnson’s victory, she notably drew boos from some of her colleagues when she unleashed her fury on the House floor against the speaker and the “uniparty” she claimed he empowered.

But I cheered. I don’t always agree with Johnson, by any means, but he did the right thing in refusing to be encumbered by his own party’s internal politics.

Our Congress has too much serious work to do for its members to waste time and attention on a minority of members who don’t want to do the hard work of building a majority the old-fashioned way —- with persuasion, negotiation and counting votes.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

©2024 Clarence Page. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


(c) 2024 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.


 

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