A Weak Speaker Is a Good Step Toward a Stronger Congress

Speaker Nancy Pelosi holds the gavel after ending the 117th Congress. (Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.)

It’s not exactly a blistering insight into how Washington works, but nothing will get you more praise and respect than being powerful and wielding that power effectively. So, it should be no surprise that Nancy Pelosi finished her tenure as speaker of the House to lavish applause. Many dubbed her the greatest or most effective speaker in modern history—or even ever

The contrast with Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s ongoing effort to get elected speaker couldn’t be starker. Firebrands and rabble-rousers in the GOP conference want to weaken McCarthy and the office of speaker. 

I hold no brief for McCarthy the man, but the way much of Washington talks, it’s simply taken for granted that weakening the speakership would be bad. The truth is that a weak speaker might be the best thing for a strong Congress.  

Put another way, the Pelosi model of governance is part of the problem. Yes, she was very effective, but her effectiveness came from a centralized, top-down approach—which has its historical roots in, among other things, Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” reforms in the early ’90s. This approach is one of the drivers of political dysfunction in Washington and the country. 

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