As Kevin McCarthy repeatedly fails to secure enough votes to become speaker and the House of Representatives sits in limbo, Democrats say they are increasingly concerned about the risks to national security involved in a prolonged period without any active members or ability to conduct legislative business.
Currently, every elected member of the House has yet to be sworn in to office, leaving committee structures up in the air and creating a backlog of onboarding for freshmen and their staffs.
Lawmakers’ families who came to Washington for the pomp and circumstance of the first day, including the swearing-in of members, have grown exhausted waiting. House staffers have lamented they have no work to start until there’s a successful vote. Meanwhile, freshmen members have been prevented from accessing official House emails; some prematurely sent out press releases announcing their swearing-in, even though it has yet to happen.
A more serious matter is the committee work. Although most committees under a GOP majority are expected to shift the focus of their work, there is some committee work that should have continued over from the previous Congress and already been underway. Right now, however, members of Congress are unable even to view classified documents. This has some Democrats uneasy about the next few days—and if the speakership impasse drags out, potentially much longer.
“We can’t even do basic things,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Cal.) told The Bulwark. “We can’t conduct any oversight. You can’t have an entire branch of government simply not function. And we don’t have a House right now because no one’s even sworn in.”
“And the chaos on the Republican side is having real consequences for the country and it’s going to get very serious very fast,” he added. “Imagine if there’s some unexpected crisis either domestically or somewhere in the world and you needed Congress to act. We couldn’t right now because we don’t have a speaker.”
Lieu also painted a picture of a future speakership fight with even more disturbing consequences—if a dispute like this were to occur during a year in which Congress is charged with certifying a presidential election. [Continue reading…]