There is an aspect of the professed concern about the lack of a House speaker that seems overblown.
American leadership is never particularly dependent on whoever’s running things on that side of the Capitol (or the other side, for that matter). Recent YouGov polling found that even a quarter of Republicans weren’t really familiar with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House’s previous elected speaker — suggesting that perhaps his role wasn’t as essential as he might have thought.
Even if things get really dramatic — if the president and vice president were to suddenly vanish, for example, triggering a line-of-succession question given the vacancy in the speakership — it seems safe to say that the biggest stressor wouldn’t center on whether Senate President Pro Tempore Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was right to ascend to the top job.
The search for the next House speaker
End of carousel
But there is an obvious way in which the lack of a speaker is negatively impacting governance: The House is spending a lot of time figuring out who should have this particularly thankless job instead of passing bills that aren’t considered in the Senate.
Presumably, thanks to a less cynical view of Congress, YouGov’s new polling for the Economist indicates most Americans — including most Democrats and Republicans — think the lack of a speaker is hurting the ability of the government to function. (Some fraction of each party thinks the lack of speaker is helping; that might be the most cynical view possible.)
While Republicans, including McCarthy, have tried (and continue to try) to frame the lack of leadership as a function of Democratic ineptitude, YouGov’s results indicate that Republicans in Congress are viewed particularly poorly, even by the low standard at which Congress is generally viewed. Four in 10 Americans view congressional Democrats at least somewhat favorably; only a third view Republicans in Congress that way.
Nine in 10 Democrats view their own party’s congressional delegation favorably. Only two-thirds of Republicans view theirs so generously.
That said, Republicans suggested to YouGov that they are amenable to the instinct that led to the current predicament. The effort to oust McCarthy from his position was based, in part, on Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) disparagement of McCarthy’s willingness to work across the aisle. The nomination of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) to the top position would seem to move the conference away from bipartisan dealmaking as a political tactic. But most Republicans say that’s what they want from a speaker: someone who sticks to their principles, no matter what.
A plurality of Americans (including both Democrats and independents) view compromise as a better alternative.
Republicans — and Americans overall — are not confident this will resolve quickly. YouGov began polling on these questions Oct. 14 and wrapped up the poll Tuesday. More than half of respondents felt as though the House would be without a speaker for at least a week; a third said it would be at least two weeks before someone was selected.
That was before the House began voting on the nomination of Jordan, though. And with those votes under our belts, we can safely say that … yeah, the country’s skepticism about this thing being resolved quickly seems warranted.