“Miracles enable us to judge of doctrine, and doctrine enables us to judge of miracles.” Blaise Pascal 1623-1662.
Shall we just say that a miracle remains inexplicable. For many prominent modern philosophers, if something cannot be proved, that something does not exist. Therefore, to them, miracles cannot exist.
Miss Constitution disagrees. The problem is not the existence of miracles it is the recognition of them. Here is a recent miracle one might have missed if one lost concentration for just the briefest moment:
I am speaking of the four-day fight for Speaker of the House.
It is impossible for many knowledgeable voters to understand how their fellow citizens can support the obvious cultural and spiritual demise of America. How and when did the political class become so corrupt? How and who thinks it a good idea to abandon objective knowledge in government schools and replace it with subjective theory intended to harden the heart and deaden the soul of our unsuspecting children? Where are our highly trained and respected military leaders?
And yet, dutifully, the Sovereign goes to the polls every two years to vote for Representatives in the House, every four years to vote for a Chief Executive, and every six years (alternating) to vote for two Senators from their state who serve in the United States Senate.
Voting is the method by which the Sovereign judges its public servants (both elected and hired) whose job it is to preserve, protect, and defend the United States Constitution. An election was held in November and the Republican Party limped to a slim majority in the House of Representatives. Democrats are fully in control of the Senate and the Presidency.
So what was the Sovereign saying with this election? Perhaps the Sovereign cannot figure out what is going on, cannot answer the above questions with any certainty, and is in a state of some disbelief and paralysis. In the Sovereign’s wildest dreams a tiny miracle would not have been considered although a red wave was predicted. And yet, a miracle happened.
Here’s the story.
The House of Representatives is supposed to be a messy place. Our Founders wanted some arena where the “average” citizen could be represented, his or her views spelled out and debated, as a type of pressure valve release for domestic tensions in the country. That is why these members have only two-year terms. How much harm can they do? The power of the House, however, is not in debate it is in funding. Nothing can be funded unless that funding is approved by the citizens’ representatives in the House – 435 of them. This is one of the Sovereign’s important checks on corruption. “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” Article, I, section 7, United States Constitution.
What we saw play out over four days is exactly what the Founders intended. Before anything can start, however, a Speaker must be chosen. This means that family members waiting to have their picture taken had to wait. The reception for new members had to wait. The kids had to be sent home or to the hotel. All messy.
Kevin McCarthy had been working on getting a majority of votes to be Speaker, but he didn’t have them when the vote began. The Democrats voted unanimously every time for the same person. They did not move or leave the floor for any reason in case they got lucky and enough Republicans were sick or away and they might accidentally gain control of the House along with the Senate and Presidency.
The roll was called by name and the clerk had to hear an answer and see the person. It was very interesting and done very professionally. Vote after vote, two hours to call the roll, often late into the night, everyone was getting more nervous and more exhausted by the moment. This went on for days.
Then a surprise. Most of the media, from the most conservative to the most liberal, began trashing those who would not vote for McCarthy. Insults were hurled, violence nearly broke out, motives were questioned, hateful epithets were thrown around like candy on Halloween. The Democrats mocked their Republican colleagues. Former Republican leaders called those of their party who did not support McCarthy every name in the book and accused them of extortion and worse.
At one point, on the 14th roll call, one vote short for Kevin McCarthy, two of the hold-outs sat together close to the front. Cameras showed other members getting in their face, imploring them to change their votes. One could see the spit. At one point a member climbed on the chair in front of them, elevating his bottom to the camera for all to see. What did they want? Money? Something for their district?
What they wanted were House rules for normal legislative order. They wanted reasonable time to read the Bills before them. They wanted one subject per Bill. They wanted separate appropriations Bills so that they could track the country’s enormous debt. They wanted to be able to debate policy, have public hearings, and they also wanted to be able to amend legislation presented on the floor. They wanted what the Founders intended for the House. It had been eliminated over time by those who did not like the “messiness” of our Republic. Spending on pork without debate is so much easier.
So, what was the miracle?
At about 1:30 am, after the final successful vote for Speaker, families gathered in the chamber and Kevin McCarthy approached the Speaker’s dais to be handed the gavel by the now minority leader in the House, Hakeem Jeffries. His role was to show a polite and peaceful transfer of power in what is known as the Peoples’ House, give the gavel to Kevin McCarthy with a handshake, and let the Speaker administer the Oath of Office to the new members in front of their long-suffering families.
What Jeffries did, with Speaker McCarthy standing at his side, was to deliver one of the most hateful and corrosive speeches ever heard in the House. His loathing for his Republican colleagues, including the Speaker, and for Americans who voted for them was so palpable that Republican members at one point began to groan like wounded animals. It was a very ugly end to what should have been a gracious moment.
With that speech ringing in their ears, the Republican House instantly turned into a unified political body of real substance. By the next week they had their Rules by a near unanimous vote. From internecine warfare to mature stewards of our system, a tiny sliver of light, broke through and landed softly on the shoulders of the newly elected Republican members of the House of Representatives. Miracles enable us to judge of doctrine. Benjamin Franklin must have smiled.
Ask Miss C
Miss C is taking questions you have about the US Constitution. Simply submit your questions and she’ll reply to you with answers. Great questions may be featured in her blog as well as added to an FAQ page.