The unprecedented vote by the House of Representatives this week to remove its speaker leaves Congress unable to legislate. The historic action prompted the Observer to check in with Needham’s congressional representative Jake Auchincloss about the status of our governing institution.
“There’s nothing foundationally wrong with Congress,” said the second-term Democrat who represents the 4th District. “What we’re seeing this week is not necessarily a problem with Congress as an institution. It’s a problem with the Republican party as an institution.”
Auchincloss said bipartisan policy making is possible, citing last year’s passage of the climate action bill, the gun safety bill and support for Ukraine while the Democrats were in the majority as examples of big things that can get done. “It was arguably the most productive Congress in my lifetime,” he said. He believes it can happen with the Republicans in the majority.
“The math of Congress is such that we need Republican votes to pass policy. We’re very cognizant of that,” said Auchincloss. “If we were willing to work with Republicans when we were in the majority last Congress, which of course we were, then of course we’re willing to work with Republicans in the minority when we actually, mathematically, need their votes,” he said. He thinks there are a number of things where the math in the House is favorable to passing legislation. “I mean are there going to be tradeoffs, obviously, that’s the way Congress works, but the math is there.”
Auchincloss said he understands the sentiment when people tell him, “You guys in Congress are useless.” As he puts it, “There are 435 members of Congress, and as with every profession about 10% ruin it for everybody else. You can’t negotiate with people who just want to watch the place break down.”
But he remains positive. “I’m an inveterate optimist. I mean I have to be every time I fly down to Washington, right?” As for who should be the next speaker, Auchincloss favors the current minority leader. “Hakeem Jeffries would be a terrific Speaker of the House.”