MARY REICHARD, PRESENTER: It’s Wednesday, November 23, 2022. I’m delighted to have you with us for today’s edition of The world and everything in it. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s time for Washington Wednesday. Today a preview of the GOP agenda for the 118th Congress.
After Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives, leaders promised big changes. But their majority will be narrow, and Democrats retain control of the Senate. So how much can a GOP-run establishment achieve and what can we expect?
Marc Clauson comes to us with answers. He is Professor of History and Law at Cedarville University.
REICHARD: Professor, good morning!
MARC CLAUSON, GUEST: Thank you. good to be with you
REICHARD: Well, Marc, I want to ask you first who the leading Republicans will be in the next Congress. GOP lawmakers voted to nominate Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to take on a House Speaker.
But he still faces a plenary vote and there is some speculation that there might be enough Republicans opposed to McCarthy to deny him the gavel. How does it look?
CLAUSON: Well, I still think it’s very likely that he’ll be elected speaker. Now it’s true, he has a pretty narrow margin to work with, and if a few Republicans back out or three back down and vote against him, along with all the Democrats who will undoubtedly vote against him, then he could lose. But I don’t expect that to happen. Usually not. And indeed, the mere nomination seems to indicate that he will be the next speaker, at least for me.
REICHARD: Assuming McCarthy becomes the next speaker, he has vowed to remove some controversial Democrats from key committees. What can you tell us about this?
CLAUSON: Well, that actually happens every time the house changes parties. The majority party will decide that they do not want certain people on their committees or certain people to chair their committees, and they have the power to do so under House rules. Now they cannot go indefinitely. You still have to have members of both parties under the rules of the house. But they can still remove members of those committees from them if they vote to do so.
REICHARD: Okay, so again, if the Republicans retake the majority in January, their majority will be close. But Republicans have promised investigations into many different matters, including the business dealings of the president’s son, Hunter Biden, and alleged FBI corruption. What are you expecting there?
CLAUSON: Well, I think that’s where you come to brass nails. I think Republicans need to be very careful in their investigations. If they choose a person or issue that doesn’t resonate with the American people, it could harm them in the run-up to the next election. It would also get them a lot of bad publicity. So for example, and that may be my own take on it, but maybe they choose to investigate Hunter Biden’s laptop issue. Okay, that’s something that should be done in the future, but if they did it now I’d guess they’d come under a bit of fire from both sides if they said look, you gotta focus on the more important ones Focus on issues that resonate with the American people: the border crisis, the Justice Department, energy issues, all those things, current issues, rather than going into Hunter Biden’s personal issues now. If you want to do that later, maybe later, after you’ve fixed all the other issues, but not now I’d say.
REICHARD: The Republicans have also generally promised more control over the Biden administration’s agenda and curbed spending. Tell us what powers they will have in this regard when they retake the majority.
CLAUSON: Well, the greatest power they have – and this is crucial power – is that they have the power of the purse. All spending actions that start in the house of the house can opt out of spending actions and that will put a damper on any spending that needs to be approved over the next two years. In addition, however, they have the supervisory function. That is, their committees can exercise oversight over various agencies and their actions. But can they actually force agencies to listen to what they say? The answer to that is no, because the President has direct power or authority over these agencies. So they won’t be able to do much about that. Furthermore, I don’t think they will be able to get legislation of any importance. They might be able to do the usual things like explain a day, a special day or something. They do that all the time. But when it comes to real issues, like the border crisis again, the Justice Department power issues, and so on, there’s practically nothing you can do because the Senate just says no, even though everything Republicans approved in the House of Representatives. Since the Senate is controlled by the Democrats, I think this is a no-go with almost all legislation.
REICHARD: During their campaigns, many House Republicans talked about addressing issues like rising crime and securing the southern border. But how much can they really do without the Senate or the White House?
CLAUSON: Like I said, there really isn’t much they can do. Now they can withhold money, but they can’t spend money because even if they agree to a spending measure, it has to go to the Senate. So you still have to vote. If the Democrats say no, they can impede the Republicans in the House of Representatives. Well, one thing they can do, like crime. They can make it a very public issue in their committees and subcommittees. And hopefully that will get them enough publicity for the American people to get a sense of what’s really happening. The same with the border crisis, the same with energy. Well at this end you have to be careful because you will get the publicity you want from the media. And if the media tends to lean to the left, then the media will not report it at all or not positively. Even there they can be disabled. So there’s not much you can do. Now they can prevent things from getting done, but they can’t really do much.
REICHARD: Marc, do you think there will continue to be strong support for Ukraine in the war against Russia when Republicans take the lead in the House of Representatives?
CLAUSON: I think so. I haven’t seen much resistance. There was opposition to the war, but I don’t think you’ll see much opposition to the war. Now they might want to give Ukraine less money. That is possible. But even there, I’m inclined to think they’ll continue to expand the aid they’re providing to Ukraine, within limits. They will not, I believe, go beyond a certain point to appropriate money or vote for appropriate money, but I think they will continue to support Ukraine.
REICHARD: Let’s go to the House of Lords for a moment and ask me a Senate-related question. There is still one seat to be decided in the Georgia runoff. But the Democrats already have 50 seats and, of course, Vice President Kamala Harris has the casting vote.
So what does this seat in the Georgia Senate mean? How important is it for Republicans to claim it or for Democrats to hold it?
CLAUSON: Well, to give an interesting example, the difference is Joe Manchin, to take just one. He’s obviously a Democrat. But he is a Democrat who can quibble with Democrat policies and laws. That means if anything is proposed that he doesn’t like, he can go with the Republicans and the tie won’t work. The tie vote breaker will not work. Now again, will it make a difference if the Senate doesn’t pass it because the House wouldn’t have passed it anyway? That’s probably the case. But it still gives the Senate the ability to stop Democrats from doing what they want to do, even if they can’t get it through the House of Representatives, they can still stop it in the Senate itself. So it makes a difference. And it made a difference even before the Republicans took the House, because Joe Manchin said no, I won’t go there, in several legislative acts. i’m not going with you And the Democrats couldn’t pass the legislation.
REICHARD: We spoke to Professor Marc Clauson. Professor, thank you very much!
Clausson: Thank you. good to be with you
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