Rep. Seth Moulton: House speaker battle a symptom of ‘polarization’

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

Congressman Seth Moulton worries that new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy made too many concessions to the GOP members blocking his speakership. COURTESY PHOTO / PHIL ROEDER VIA FLICKR 

Congressman Seth Moulton, who represents Marblehead and surrounding communities, was sitting outside the House Chamber on the afternoon of Jan. 5, feeling frustrated and concerned as the battle for a new Republican speaker waged on.

“This is getting increasingly dangerous for the country,” Moulton told the Marblehead Current that day. “People around the world are looking at the United States and seeing chaos and dysfunction in the Republican party.”

California Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy was finally elected the new speaker early Saturday morning, Jan. 7, on the 15th vote. Until then, the House could not function.

“The House has no rules without a speaker,” Moulton added. “It can’t conduct business. Members can’t get intelligence briefings, which, being a member of the Armed Services Committee, is incredibly important to me.”

Moulton said he and his Democratic colleagues spent long days and evenings on Capitol Hill, participating in vote after vote for speaker. In between votes, he sat in the lobby with his laptop, doing whatever work he could.

“From a formal perspective, we can’t function. I can talk to my team about legislation, but we can’t draft legislation.”

Moulton was also concerned McCarthy made too many concessions to the GOP members blocking his speakership.

“This represents the polarization of politics,” he said.

It has been a century since the House experienced a similar battle for speaker. In 1923, it was Massachusetts Congressman Frederick Gillett seeking the top spot. He finally prevailed on the ninth vote.

‘We need a fresh approach’

Marblehead resident Amy Carnevale, who has served on the Massachusetts Republican Committee for a decade, watched the speaker fight closely.

“More than anything, I think the votes and the process and the way that it’s played out points to the fact that Republicans are going to have a very hard time governing for the next two years,” she said. “It would be easier if McCarthy had a bigger majority, so just a few members of the party couldn’t block his speakership.”

Carnevale is running for chair of the state Republican Party.

“We need a fresh approach geared toward attracting independents and even conservative Democrats,” she said. “There are parallels at the state and national level.”

Back on Capitol Hill, Moulton had this message for people in his district: “Please know that we as a team are still working for our constituents, and if they need anything, they can contact our Salem office.”

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