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The Honeymoon Is Over?

Thanks primarily to Franklin D. Roosevelt, the first 100 days of a presidential or congressional term have a certain mystical quality. The folks at The Hill have decided that Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has reached the 100-day mark. And their assessment, per the headline of the piece meant to serve as capstone to a series on the subject: 100 days in power: House GOP honeymoon may be over.

We must concede, we were a bit gobsmacked when we saw this headline. To start, we've only reached the 100-day mark if we count the start of the Congressional term. But of course, McCarthy did not gain the speakership for the better part of 5 days. So if we were doing the math, we'd say 100 days arrives on Tuesday of next week. But The Hill didn't ask us.

The real gobsmacker for us, however, is the use of the word "honeymoon." We struggle to think of a House majority that has achieved less in its first 100 days than this one has. In part, that's because the other party controls the Senate and the White House. In part, that's because the House Republican Caucus has a very thin majority and is heavily divided. When we think of McCarthy's first 100 days, we think of: (1) the weeklong "who will be the Speaker?" soap opera, (2) the sham committees being run by the increasingly desperate Jim Jordan (R-OH) and (3) the getting-uglier-by-the-day argument with the White House over the debt limit.

So, what accomplishments does The Hill point to in order to justify the "honeymoon" characterization? Let's give it to you in the reporters' words. After noting that the debate over the debt limit is going to be a "challenge," they write:

The coming fiscal debates over must-pass legislation will differ from those that defined the first three months of the year, when McCarthy's new GOP majority focused largely on messaging bills designed to enliven the party base and, at times, highlight Democratic divisions on hot-button issues like crime and immigration.

The high-water mark of that strategy was the proposal to repeal the D.C. crime bill, which Biden signed into law after initially signaling his opposition—a reversal that infuriated Democrats who voted 'no' and felt left out to dry.

McCarthy also found some early victories on foreign policy, winning high marks for launching a bipartisan select committee to confront China's global influence and staging a well-received meeting with Taiwan's president last week in California that even got praise from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

When it comes to this "report card," we have four comments:

  1. Nobody gives a crap about messaging bills that never even came up for a vote in the Senate, especially when those messaging bills came up more than 18 months before the next general election.

  2. The D.C. crime bill was a shrewd strategic maneuver, and we gave McCarthy credit at the time, noting that if he could find other issues where Republicans are in agreement but Democrats are divided, he might score some more victories. We also wrote that could not imagine what those other issues might be, and it does not appear the Speaker has found any of them since then. Further, "we told D.C. they aren't allowed to govern themselves" is not exactly something you can run for reelection on.

  3. Congress rarely has much influence over foreign policy, no matter how much grandstanding it might do. Get back to us when McCarthy's China committee actually has a tangible accomplishment.

  4. Nobody gives a crap about meetings with foreign leaders, unless those meetings are scandalous for some reason. Can you name three foreign leaders that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) traveled abroad to meet with while she was speaker? We can't, and we write about politics every day. There's Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and... that's about all we've got.

In short, having read The Hill's explanation for the headline, we are still unconvinced that the first 100 days of McCarthy's tenure have been a success, regardless of how generously you define that term.

How do we come to such a different conclusion than the folks at The Hill? One possibility is that we are coming from different vantage points; for example, they are in Washington and are hearing scuttlebutt and we are not. A second possibility is that McCarthy's clumsy performance during the Speakership elections so badly damaged our opinion of him that we're not giving him a fair shake. And a third possibility is that they needed a piece to conclude the "100 Days" series they decided to write, and so started with a conclusion and worked backwards from that. If so, Sherlock Holmes definitely would not approve.

Anyhow, it's certainly possible that we're wrong, and that McCarthy & Co. are off to a stellar start. We are not frightened by opinions that differ from ours, so we pass this one along for readers' consideration. (Z)

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