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OMG the House Majority and Minority leaders are speaking? Perhaps working together? WTF?

Speaker McCarthy Puts the House Back in Order

Behind the scenes, he has done a lot to get the focus back on productive legislating.

By Karl Rove, WSJ

March 1, 2023 6:06 pm ET

The 15 ballots it took for Rep. Kevin McCarthy to become speaker left an image of dysfunction and chaos. Yet important actions that Mr. McCarthy has taken since becoming speaker paint a different picture.

Mr. McCarthy is determined to reduce whatever needless partisanship he can in the House. Republicans and Democrats will continue to disagree, but their leaders need not be in perpetual personal war with each other. So the speaker told Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries that he will treat him as Mr. McCarthy wished he’d been treated when he was minority leader.

As evidence of his intent, Mr. McCarthy promised to invite Mr. Jeffries to join when the speaker is individually briefed by the intelligence community. That’s a courtesy Nancy Pelosi denied him, but what a speaker knows on issues affecting national security, a minority leader should know too.

Mr. McCarthy also brought Mr. Jeffries in on the formation of the Select Committee on China. He shared the list of possible Republican members with the minority leader before the speaker had announced the committee or spoken to prospective GOP panel members. Mr. McCarthy thought it appropriate that a speaker discuss such actions in advance with the opposition leader so that the latter wasn’t blindsided and could play a role in shaping the committee. Moreover, Mr. McCarthy wanted to show Mr. Jeffries the quality of appointments he wanted to make so that the Democrats could appoint in kind.

And Mr. Jeffries has responded in good faith. The committee’s formation has drawn bipartisan support, and its Republican and Democratic panelists are some of each party’s brighter, abler members. This augurs well for the development of a durable bipartisan consensus on how to manage America’s greatest international challenge.

The committee’s preliminary actions, its first hearing Tuesday, and comments from both Chairman Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) and ranking Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi (Ill.) suggest the group could be productive—a real break with how Congress has operated in recent years. Committee members from each party have held events together, with Mr. Gallagher and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D., N.Y.) speaking at a protest Saturday outside an office that the human-rights organization Safeguard Defenders calls a Chinese “police service station.”

Mr. McCarthy has taken other steps to cool the House’s temperature and get it working productively again. He held a spy-agency briefing for the House Intelligence Committee to update Republicans and Democrats on the risks of being targeted by foreign intelligence services and the fallout from misusing classified information.

He and Mr. Jeffries are working now on a similar House-wide briefing by the Congressional Budget Office on its latest 10-year estimates. Mr. McCarthy’s hope is that—without the cameras rolling—members from both sides will be able to listen to the Congressional Budget Office’s sobering analysis, ask questions, and begin working on ways to avoid or at least mitigate the debt crisis that’s coming.

Credit goes to the speaker for wanting to return to regular order, with committees actually legislating, not with members simply waiting for leadership to stuff a massive bill down their throats. Regular order also means funding the government with 12 appropriations bills passed before the fiscal year starts, not with a gigantic omnibus negotiated after the fiscal year has begun.

This isn’t to suggest the next two years in the House will be sugar plums, unicorns and rainbows. There will be disagreements, frequently bitter and unruly. This is a narrowly divided House. The parties have big differences on major issues, and each has its share of loudmouths who see taking cheap shots as the shortest route to a cable-news appearance. But the parties’ leaders are trying to find ways to mitigate dysfunction where they can.

The Golden Rule isn’t a bad starting point for the relationship between speaker and minority leader. There is also something to be said for leaving a place better than you found it. By having civil conversations and treating each other with respect, House leaders can avoid distractions and create areas of agreement and compromise.

In the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan shared drinks and stories with Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill despite having tough conversations about Social Security. By being civil to each other, Messrs. McCarthy and Jeffries can set a model for their party conferences. Given the acidic state of America’s politics, that’s needed more than ever.

Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads and is author of “The Triumph of William McKinley” (Simon & Schuster, 2015).

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