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House mess dates back to the Tea Party


Yvette Herrell is a skilled and tireless campaigner with a keen understanding of the Second Congressional District. But how is she going to convince voters next year that we have been well served by Republican control of the  House of Representatives?

The House has been inactive since Oct. 3, when Kevin McCarthy became the first speaker in history to be booted from office.

Past Republican speakers include Dennis Hastert, who pled guilty to federal charges of paying hush money to cover up his sexual misconduct with teenage boys; and Newt Gingrich, who paid a $300,000 fine to the Ethics Committee for misuse of campaign funds. On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Speaker Jim Wright was also caught with his hand in the till.

McCarthy’s crime was putting a bill on the floor to prevent a government shutdown.

When Republicans decided to send everybody home for a week on Oct. 3, I’m sure they hoped that would be enough time to rally around a new leader. It was not. And I’m sure they hoped no unexpected events would happen to highlight their appalling lack of leadership. Four days later, Hamas attacked Israel.

As I write this Oct. 15, I have no idea how or when this stalemate ends. But I do know how and when it started.

The simmering cauldron of anger and resentment that boiled over earlier this month has been heating up ever since the creation of the Tea Party, and the off-year election of 2010.

The Tea Party formed in 2009 in response to the election of Barack Obama, and has nothing to do with herbal beverages. “Tea” is an acronym for “taxed enough already,” leading one to believe this was a tax protest group. But the racist signs at all their rallies let us know what their real beef was.

Obama had been in office for about a month when a televised rant by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli gave rise to the Tea Party. The movement spread quickly and was at the peak of its power ahead of the 2010 election.

Republicans picked up 63 seats that year, with many going to Tea Party members who had no political experience or respect for the institution. They won their seats by promising to never compromise, and kept that promise no matter the cost.

It was a good news/bad news scenario for the new Speaker John Boehner. He won the gavel, but it came with a new caucus of freshmen lawmakers who would make it impossible to govern.

The Tea Party was gone by the 2016 election of Donald Trump. But its spirit lives on in the Freedom Caucus, whose members have just as little respect for the institution as their predecessors.

Walter Rubel can be reached at waltrubel@gmail.com.