Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
If I had a nickel for every week this year the House of Representatives didn’t have a speaker, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot, but it’s weird it happened twice, right?
The fact Congress is divided is nothing new. But with tight margins in both chambers, any rogue vote can throw the government into haywire. And that’s exactly what happened in the lower chamber last week.
For the first time in United States history, the House passed a resolution vacating the office of House speaker. Eight Republicans joined the unified Democratic caucus to oust the now-former Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy. This has left the House of Representatives paralyzed until a new speaker is voted in.
The difference between House Republicans and Senate Democrats — who both hold narrow majorities in their respective chambers — is Republicans have formally challenged their own established leadership.
The far-right Freedom Caucus led the charge to oust McCarthy after he ushered in a short-gap spending bill to avoid a potential government shutdown. The caucus argued McCarthy circumvented it by working with Democrats to keep the government running.
We cannot allow for an extreme minority faction that doesn’t believe in bipartisanship to have a chokehold over the nation’s government. It’s reached a boiling point — the growing division not only hinders effective governance, it poses a mounting threat to national security amid intensifying global conflicts.
House Republicans must come to a compromise by nominating two moderate members to serve as House speaker for roughly seven months each until a permanent speaker can be elected by a new Congress.
With the short-gap spending bill expiring in November, the threat of a government shutdown is on the horizon. Whoever the next speaker is will have to cut deals with the other side and make decisions that may not be popular with their entire caucus. The last thing they should be worried about is having their seat vacated.
Two speakers would create stability over the course of the year. It could bridge the divide by allowing two different agendas to lead the House. It also makes it more likely the speaker will last beyond the next budget bill or controversial issue.
It’s critical we have stable leadership in our legislative branch during uncertain times. With war raging in eastern Europe and the Middle East, we cannot afford to appear divided on the international stage.
Two different House speakers could also invoke cooperation among the bitterly-divided caucus. Being faced with two moderate options would place pressure on officials to put their personal animosities aside and work towards finding common ground on pressing issues.
From McCarthy’s perspective, he believed Rep. Matt Gaetz — who brought forward the resolution against McCarthy — did so because of personal problems. With two speakers, any friction that arises could be defused with the transition to the other speaker’s seven-month term.
With an election in a little over a year, both sides will need to answer to swing vote constituents about the speakership fight. There are a number of House Democrats who represent districts won by former President Donald Trump in 2020. There are even more House Republicans who represent districts won by President Joe Biden.
A two-speaker solution could open the door for Democrats and Republicans in battleground districts to work together. It would be in both sides’ best interest to show they’re willing to compromise on something as partisan as the House speaker.
Not only is this idea sound, but the strategy is viable — it’s been employed following close legislative elections in other countries. In 2021, members of six opposition parties came together to form the thirty-sixth government of Israel. They agreed to share powers by nominating two members who would split the term as prime minister.
While the result didn’t garner political success in the long run, it kept the government afloat. At this point, that’s all we need. The disarray on Capitol Hill makes the once-unimaginable idea of staging two speakers seem reasonable.
The bar is so low — yet the stakes couldn’t be much higher. It’s time for partisan politicians to put their differences aside and do what’s best for the country, regardless of electoral outcomes.
Hunter Craig is a senior public policy major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.