Conservatives are lining up to condemn House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy—the leading candidate to replace Speaker John Boehner—for making plain what everyone knew but Republicans are never supposed to say aloud: that the select committee on Benghazi was created to fuel opposition to Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy.
These critics dress up their condemnations in the solemn memory of the Americans who died in Libya, but they’ve done a poor job of concealing the fact that they’re mainly mad at McCarthy for blowing up their spot. Some of them are even calling for McCarthy to be deposed before he’s even won the gavel.
Ingraham’s far from alone. But as a Donald Trump supporter, and the conservative radio personality most responsible for abruptly ending Eric Cantor’s career in the House, her opposition carries real weight. It also suggests a grand bargain that would satisfy conservative activists, Republican officials, some Democrats, and most members of the political press corps. It’s a deal that would end the establishment’s viselike grip on the speakership, bring some stability to Republican party politics, and begin the process of Making America Great Again, well ahead of January 2017.
All that needs to happen is for members of the House Republican conference to offer Donald Trump the speakership, and for Donald Trump to suspend his presidential campaign and accept it.
There is literally no reason this couldn’t happen. Nothing in the Constitution requires members of the House to select their speaker from among their own ranks, even though in practice they always have. And right now, circumstances cry out for a Trump speakership with unexpected urgency.
On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew advised Congress that due to unexpectedly anemic tax revenues, the debt limit will have to be increased early—no later than the first week of November, just a few days after Boehner retires. The development increased the expectation that Boehner would end run conservatives and cleanly increase the limit before the end of October, rather than hand the responsibility to an untested, and apparently erratic McCarthy. That would be the best outcome for the Republican Party and for the country. But second best would be to hand the responsibility to Trump instead of McCarthy.
As a businessman and investor, Trump probably understands better than most members of Congress how important it is not to place the country’s creditworthiness at risk. At a more practical level, Trump understands the value and importance of debt and of its sanctity. At the end of the day our debt is our half of an agreement, and nothing’s more important to him, save for the Bible, than the art of the deal. When he declared bankruptcy, his investors were well aware of how he might legally screw them. Our creditors, by contrast, expect us to abide by the terms of our Constitution, which holds that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”
It stands to reason that Speaker Trump would increase the debt limit, and might even be able to convince the reactionaries in his conference that it was the right thing to do.
Looking beyond the debt limit, Speaker Trump would be responsible for funding the government from December 11 through the end of the fiscal year. Trump, much more than President Barack Obama, has a reputation for driving a hard bargain. In negotiations over annual appropriations, he would undoubtedly gore liberal sacred cows. But he’s demonstrated a genuine commitment to Obama’s highest funding priorities, especially infrastructure spending. How better to make America great again than to make its roads, bridges, rail system, and electrical grid the envy of the world? Trump also understands that cutting investment accounts indiscriminately is a crappy way to run anything. Like Obama, he’d place a high priority on eliminating sequestration. Together, these are the ingredients for the most responsible and forward-looking budget Congress has enacted in at least six years.
But the dividends of a Trump speakership would flow beyond his ability to carry out the basic functions of our legislature. By stepping out of the presidential race, Trump would bring some needed calm to the GOP’s chaotic primary campaign. In Trump’s absence, the vitriol would drain out of that race, and a more normal set of forces would rise up to determine who the party’s presidential candidate would be, and what agenda he or she would advance. Trump’s xenophobic tendencies would find a new outlet in weekly Capitol press briefings, and perhaps in budget negotiations, where he’d likely agitate for building a magnificent wall along the border and starving sanctuary cities of their federal dollars. This is inarguably less harmful to his party and the country than the impact he’d have as the Republican nominee, or as a rival who forced the Republican nominee to run for the presidency on a conspicuously nativist platform.
And on top of it all, the main attraction of the current media circus wouldn’t go away. The news wouldn’t get less entertaining; its focus would just shift to Congress, where it arguably ought to be anyhow. Trump would have real power, but it’d be constrained—and the payoff for him would be to neutralize his single biggest liability in the current campaign. Once he Made America Great Again, he’d have a real governing record to run on in 2020.
Kevin McCarthy’s conservative critics aren’t being entirely forthright about the reasons they oppose him, but they also aren’t misguided in their opposition. He doesn’t have the steady hand and steel nerve the country needs (and deserves) in a speaker. When Nancy Pelosi handed the gavel to John Boehner, we quickly learned of the risks and costs associated with having an infirm House speaker. Why would we want to go further in the wrong direction? Donald Trump for Speaker. It’s the least bad we could do right now.