Editor’s Note: Rep. Justin Amash is a Republican from Michigan. He is chairman of the House Liberty Caucus and a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Justin Amash: John Boehner didn't fall for being insufficiently conservative; he didn't run the House correctly
Amash says promoting Kevin McCarthy to speaker is not a solution
Speaker John Boehner’s announced resignation from Congress marks the inevitable fall of a speakership marred by internal Republican friction, raw partisanship and loss of influence for our great institution. And the next speaker will suffer the same fate unless he or she approaches the job entirely differently.
It’s not that Speaker Boehner isn’t conservative enough; it’s that he fundamentally misunderstands the role of speaker of the House of Representatives. The speaker’s first priority must be to defend the institution on behalf of all Americans. While the speaker may have a role in policy debates, that role cannot trump his obligation to uphold House process.
By not keeping these priorities, Speaker Boehner has failed both as a policy leader and as an institutional leader.
Speaker Boehner and other Republican leaders have repeatedly favored a “govern by crisis” approach that abandons the regular order of the House. Despite having months to act before legislative deadlines, leaders routinely wait until the last moment to plot a course of action, publicly concede in advance major negotiating points, insist that Republicans have no alternatives, refuse to allow amendments and then criticize colleagues for not voting to avert the crisis leadership caused.
This approach produces constant frustration among representatives in both parties and promotes the partisan finger-pointing that angers Americans at home. Instead of making bipartisan compromises to address long-term issues, Congress constructs desperate, last-minute political deals to obtain the requisite votes simply to clear the immediate impasse.
In place of genuine reforms, Republican leaders inundate the public with meaningless show votes. These bills and amendments are often poorly drafted and not intended to become law, but rather to give representatives talking points to bash the other side in the media and in our districts.
In this system, leaders make little effort to persuade congressional colleagues – or the public – on the merits of particular legislation. Significant outcomes are predetermined by a few leaders and their close allies, often with the backing of special interests that help write the bills. House rules, adopted by the entire body on the first day of each Congress, are regularly waived to bypass procedural hurdles. Votes for passage of legislation are corralled through fear and intimidation.
Republicans who vote against the wishes of leadership are punished – leaders bury our bills in committee and urge PACs not to fund our campaigns. Leadership surrogates verbally attack Republican colleagues and, in some