October 04, 2023

SIU political experts: House is in ‘chaos’

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The unprecedented ouster of U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy — forced by a small contingent of Republican lawmakers in his own party — raises questions about the short-term effectiveness in governing and signals a political development found in other countries, according to political experts at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

McCarthy became the first speaker in history to be voted out of his position by a 216-210 vote and indications are it will be next week before a new speaker will be voted on. McCarthy has said he will not seek the position again. Patrick McHenry, R-North Carolina, is serving as acting speaker.

john-jackson.jpgJohn Jackson, visiting professor, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, noted the vote was caused by “an extremist faction” of McCarthy’s own party, and “as McCarthy himself said, these people are not interested in making policy, ‘they want to burn the House down.’”

“The House is in chaos now, and the important business of the nation, most notably right now the adoption of a budget, is not being attended to,” Jackson said. “We need to start electing people who care more about what unites us rather than what divides us, who care about our institutions of government, and who understand that a separation of powers system demands tolerance, give-and-take and compromise if it is going to function.”


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Kenneth Mulligan is an associate professor of political science in SIU’s School of Anthropology, Political Science and Sociology. His research and teaching involve American political behavior, media and politics, and public opinion. He can be reached at 618-201-9634 and kmulliga@siu.edu

John Jackson, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute visiting professor, has more than four decades of political expertise and research in presidential politics, campaigns and elections. He can be reached at 618-303-1240 or jsjacson@siu.edu.

John Shaw, director, Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, spent 26 years in Washington, D.C., covering Congress and economic issues for Market News International before his arrival at SIU Carbondale in 2018. He has been a guest on the PBS NewsHour and C-SPAN. He can be reached at 618-453-4009 or john.shaw@siu.edu

Troubling trend

john-shaw-sm2.jpgJohn Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, noted that in the last decade House Republicans “have devoured all of their speakers — John Boehner, Paul Ryan and now Kevin McCarthy were all effectively driven from the speaker’s podium by a small but powerful faction of House Republicans who are more comfortable with disruption and chaos than governance.

“Speaker McCarthy's removal raises far-reaching questions about whether any GOP leader can survive as speaker. It also raises troubling questions about how the House will be governed during the coming tumultuous 2024 congressional and presidential campaigns.” 

 A vote of no confidence

faculty-photo-mulligan.jpgKenneth Mulligan an associate professor of political science in SIU’s School of Anthropology, Political Science and Sociology, said the reality of Tuesday’s vote brings about something seen in other democracies.

"One way to look at this is that in the House we have the equivalent of a three-party parliamentary system, roughly similar to what Israel has experienced recently,” he said. “The conservative party is in power but in coalition with the so-called ‘far right’ party. That small party holds a lot of cards and can blow it up at any time. Tuesday, in the House, it called a vote of no confidence. Americans are not used to this, but it not unusual for many democracies.”