“Problem Solvers Caucus” Trending BIG!

I should say that I’m not a fan of the House of Representatives “Problem Solvers Caucus,” which allows conservative (or “centrist”) Democrats to mingle with moderate (or “reasonable”) Republicans and declare that they are the solutions to all political problems. Current Democratic members include Lou Correa, Jay Costa, Jimmy Panetta, and Scott Peters of California, and Abigail Spanberger and Ed Case elsewhere. (Former Democratic members include Kyrsten Sinema of Clownville, Dan Lipinski of Illinois, and some Democrats I actually do like, such as my friend Ben McAdams of Utah, Jared Polis of Colorado, Jackie Rosen of Nevada, and Peter Welch of Vermont.)

I’m happy to see these “Problem Solvers” elected to the extent that they fit the tastes of their district while someone further left would not — which they generally do, with the notable exception of Correa, who is held in place only by the promise of enough corporate money to destroy any opponent who would better represent his constituents — because of this exact situation: where the Speakership is in question. (In the Senate, the Supreme Court and lower federal courts are why I still root for such types.)

I do recognize that the “Problem Solvers Caucus” does serve one truly important function, though: it allows those who are willing to buck (or buck over) their party to identify as such in a relatively subtle way. Who can be against “problem solving,” after all? (Well, I could, to the extent that it involves corporate-funder-solicited solutions that screw over minorities and the poor.) But when you need to find someone who might legitimately have a possibility of putting together a bipartisan vote to elect a moderate, the Problem Solvers are just about the only place one has a snowball’s chance of finding a moderate Republican who might treat Democrats fairly in a deeply split House.

That’s why, when I was looking for a moderate Republican with whom Democrats could negotiate and then support for Speaker over the unappetizing alternatives, it was to that page I went. I started off looking for David Valadeo and Don Bacon, and found them both, and then kept looking around and found Young Kim and Puerto Rico’s delegate Jenniffer Gonzalez; recently defeated Jaime Herrera Beutler, Fred Upton and Peter Meijer; and opted-out-of-running John Katko and Fred Uptonany of whom might agree to rules that would allow decent Biden-approved legislation to be considered, budgets debt-ceiling raises to be passed, and the worst abuses of oversight and impeachment to be squelched. Republican would get their way a lot of the time — hopes likely to die in the Senate — but we would continue to have a functioning government, which even under McCarthy might not be achievable (especially under the “any one or five Republican Reps can oust me at any time” rule. When you agree to something like that, you know you’re too hungry for the office just so you can check it off your bucket list.)

I made my argument for a deal with Young Kim (though I’d prefer Herrera Beutler) in a previous post, two days and six failed votes ago. Now I’ve realized that other people may be thinking along the same lines — and that this may show up in search trends and other analytics. So I went to Google Trends to take a look!

I search on “Problem Solvers Caucus” — in quotes, so there would be no ambiguity about what people were looking for and came up with this set of trends for the past week — to check my hunch. As you can, some precocious people were sniffing around on December 29 and 31, and on New Year’s Day and the say after — but January 3 and 4, the first two days of failed voted — the interest in this group simply didn’t stop. I never heard the term used even once on the news outlets I follow — NPR, LA Times, and whatever else intrudes on my searches — so that broad amount of searching either came from others’ curiosity about who was in that Caucus or media reports that I didn’t see.

But is this jump over the past four days a lot — or just a little bump? Let’s look at a longer time frame.

Here’s where things look over the entire past year. (The actual new data point won’t be planted until we’ve passed January 7 — and my guess is that that steep slope is going to be a considerable underestimate of the final placement.) So YES, people are looking — and when other possibly solutions fizzle out (although Steve Scalise seems to have a fighting chance), this is likely to be one that keeps getting stronger.

Of course, a Speaker could be elected today, or Friday, or even Saturday. But barring some unexpected overture in negotiations that I don’t think McCarthy (or Scalise) can manage, I expect that we’re headed into next week with the answer to the trivia question “how many people are in the House of Representatives” continues to be “Zero.”

And before someone suggests that I call up Young Kim and ask my almost-homey across the nearby La Habra border whether she’d go for something like this — NO, I will NOT. This is the sort of thing where the overture has to come to her, and be kept very quiet, until it burst forth as a fait accompli. I’ll take anonymous tips from anyone who tries — but I think that I’ll just file them away for a while rather than publishing them.

This piece will DEFINITELY be updated when the next point is planted on the chart — unless the question has by then become moot.

By the way, I also did a general web search. Among the links I found were:

https://www.yahoo.com/now/opinion-heres-possible-solution-deadlock-232800670.html

A story from Fox News quotes a piece in the paywalled Washington Post by Perry Bacon Jr., who was the best thing about FiveThirtyEight.com until he left, making the same sort of pitch, on behalf of Fred Upton. Works for me! The best thing about this, as he notes, is that we’ll also need a coalition to pass legislation, if a new Speaker is willing to deal with the Senate at all, and Democrats plus Republican Problem Solvers may be exactly that coalition. I think that the Bacon piece might be this one, which I’m not clicking because spam spam spam.

Another story, mostly on Death Cult “Freedom Caucus” Chair Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, notes that another Pennsylvanian may have a role in solving the problem.

Two other Pennsylvania Republicans have been prominent advocates for McCarthy and have reportedly been dispatched to try to broker a resolution: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, of Bucks County, and Guy Reschenthaler, of Washington County.

Both were part of a group negotiating with holdouts on McCarthy’s behalf, according to the online news outlet Punchbowl.  Fitzpatrick, a leader of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, was one of three House Republicans who formally nominated McCarthy within the GOP conference Tuesday and has stuck by the Californian despite repeated defeats. He told NBC News he’d support McCarthy through the “1,000th round” of voting if that’s what it takes.  Reschenthaler is a new leader in the GOP whip operation, giving him a role in party leadership.

Well, that doesn’t sound so good if the goal is to get a truly moderate ruling coalition? Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (who seems quite clued in) told pervy Matt Gaetz, who approached her to see whether Democrats would be willing to help elect McCarthy, that the answer was no. Electing McCarty is the third-worst outcome for Democrats — someone like Jim Jordan being worst (but that’s not going to happen) and someone like Steve Scalise being second worst — and the only way Democrats would even consider dealing with McCarthy is to head off a Scalise speakership. But that coalition would not be enough for Scalise to pass budget and such: the Death Cult faction is too large and likely to get bigger. If he were to govern, he’d have to peel off some Democrats, and for now not even Henry Cuellar and Lou Correa are peeling. The price of filling in the gap left by the Death Cult 20+ will be the whole Democratic Caucus (probably excluding the “Squad” types, who are already mostly excluded, and possibly the DSCC types like Katie Porter) or nothing. I think that feelers will be going out to all Republican “Problem Solvers.” And, again — anyone who wants to get a message to Young Kim should probably contact former Rep. Ed Royce.

END OF PART 1

PART 2 (with daily summary of “electile failure”)
will start from here after a vote or two is completed!

Well, they did look. From 1 a.m. through 1:59 a.m., on January 6, searches on the term “Problem Solvers Caucus” spiked hard, with the vast majority seeming to come from Washington D.C. So there was an apparent search for a compromise Republican candifate — but nothing came of it. As a result, we’re left with a terrible result, partly because it’s McCarthy, and partly because everything remotely tolerable about McCarthy (essentially, his not being a nihilist) was hocked in order for him to finalize the deal.

The Orange Juice Bump did what it could, and there was a timely spike — but that wasn’t enough.

Imagine what might have happened if, on the 10th or 11th vote today, Jeffries has directed his caucus not to vote for him that time, but to vote as follows: 25% of the caucus each for Young Kim, Fred Upton, Jenniffer [sic] Gonzalez and Jaime Herrera Beutler — and then just see what happened. That vote could have established a coalition that didn’t lead to a certain serious of future disasters this year and next, where the rightmost members of the Republican Party could bring government to a halt — something that they’re happy to do — whenever a rise in the debt limit, a budget bill, or a must-pass appropriation measure loomed into view. Maybe there weren’t six Republicans who would go along with the plan of a moderate, anti-nihilist coalition as an alternative to what McCarthy was offering — but there might have been, and we’ll never know. (Fred Upton even said that he was willing. But what we don’t know is who the “Problem Solvers Republicans” would prefer.) If one of the four candidates had picked up one, two, three votes, then the entire Democratic Caucus could have flocked to them — making them the top vote-getter, and changing the narrative from the most right-wing Republicans being in clear command to the least right-wing Republicans offering a real alternative. A complicated dance would have ensued, where Democrats could try different alternative on different votes while seeing what possibilities provoked any interest from the other side of the aisle — and then negotiations could have begun as we saw who, with some Republican support, would offer Democrats the closest thing to parity that was possible. Yes, it would have meant not voting for Jeffries — but Jeffries was never going to win unless one of the Four Horsemen visited the Republican Cloakroom on a rampage.

Putting up those trial balloons would have taken real courage on the part of the Democrats — the courage to compromise, the courage to win and govern — but Jeffries and others apparently couldn’t imagine it. “Rule by the middle” is what moderate Democrats live for — but they never tried to put it in action where it might have had a chance. I guess maybe that theory is built upon a lie. But at least we know that, in the wee hours of Friday morning, a day before voting wound on at about the same time on Saturday, someone in DC was thinking about it == searching for a solution.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Corrupt party hacks hate him. He's OK with that too. He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)