New Leadership Is Needed in U.S. House

What am I missing here?

As I watched the Sunday television political pundits, they said Ohio Rep. John Boehner, currently the House majority leader, is likely to continue leading House Republicans in the 110th Congress, with the only higher-ranking Republican, Speaker Dennis Hastert, "taking the bullet" for the team, stepping away from leadership. But apparently his fellow leader, Boehner, doesn’t feel that he has the same obligation.

Well, with every offense intended, Republicans lost Congress not because the Democrats suddenly discovered some sort of great plan for America—but because voters, and especially the Republican base, lost any faith in the Republican majorities in the U.S. Senate and in the House of Representatives.

The GOP need only look in the mirror, and wonder why it took so long for this shift in power to occur. Republicans have been literally AWOL on the battle against a growing federal bureaucracy. No, actually, it’s worse. Republicans have played a key role in the growth of the size and scope of federal spending, approving budget after budget with more and more spending. A GOP Congress that promised to "undo" decades of liberal dominance actual became the new liberals, under the banner of the elephant.

Add to spending increases the proliferation of earmarking, the pork-barrel projects, the idea that reducing spending should be replaced, instead, with “bringing home the bacon” for individual districts—and you have the recipe for disaster. A complete disconnect between the conservative rhetoric of Republicans and the action they took. The War on Terror played a key role as those most at fault for the spending used it as a foil to distract attention from the drunken-spending approach to appropriating that has become the accepted culture on Capitol Hill—a symbol of the hubris of House leadership who completely accepted a culture of big government, again, most evident through years of passing budgets and appropriations that made a mockery of the Republican Party platform.

Of course, some members of Congress went over the line in ways that violated the law—with members of Congress such as Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney leaving office in shame. But the reality is that there are still many, many in Congress who have embraced the same culture of trading off of federal funds for interest groups. The infamous K-Street Project that was supposed to get special interest groups to hire Republican lobbyists worked too well, as these GOP lobbyists successfully co-opted the GOP majority into a culture of largess.

Which brings me back to my stunned disbelief that the Republicans in the House would actually retain ANY member of the House leadership.

The pundits are trying to make the case that Boehner should not be held “responsible” for the electoral losses because he had only been in his leadership post for nine months. That would be fine if Boehner, in his leadership role, had decried the abuses, had denounced the culture of spending, and had called for Hastert’s resignation. But Boehner, as far as I can tell, imbedded himself into the leadership, becoming part of the problem. The buck stops at the top. I would submit everyone in leadership, including Hastert, including Boehner, must shoulder the blame and should be stepping aside. And Republicans in the House need to start their own “10-Step” program for winning back the confidence of Republican base voters. And that starts with admitting what was done wrong, apologizing, and developing specific proposals to share with us on what they would do differently in the future.

A good place to start would be to bring in a leadership team made up of those in the Republican conference who actually were vocal in their opposition to what was going on. But that will involve many Republicans in Congress acknowledging they have been participants in this horrible situation, and demonstrating enough humility to allow others to lead them back onto the right track.

Until we get to that point, we are stuck looking back at 2006 instead of forward to 2008.


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