A masked counter protester expresses his views with a sign near an anti-Liz-Cheney rally featuring U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz (R-Florida). (Andrew Graham / WyoFile)

The dysfunction in Washington was in full view last week as, for the first time in American history, the House of Representatives voted to remove its Speaker mid-term. This was accomplished primarily by a small handful of Republican representatives joining the Democratic Party in voting to remove Kevin McCarthy from the Speaker’s chair.


The irony in this effort is that one of the primary justifications for the removal of Speaker McCarthy was his willingness to work with Democrats on a spending bill. As a result, the eight Republicans who voted against him joined every House Democrat in voting for his ouster, leaving the House of Representatives without a speaker, House Republicans without a leader, and the nation again reminded of how poorly things work in Washington. 

The dysfunction in Congress really is striking. Those voting to oust McCarthy demand party loyalty when it suits them but are quick to abandon it as soon as it fits their own purposes. The Democratic Party was more than willing to boot the speaker, despite lacking realistic hope that the successor would be better. There are many valid criticisms of Kevin McCarthy, but the actions last week seemed to be more about sticking it to perceived political opponents than about accomplishing anything of substance. 

Congress’s problems are more than just internal turmoil. Congress is so deadlocked that it is effectively unable to function. During the Trump administration, Congress was able to pass between 340 and 440 bills during each two-year session. The 112th Congress, which held office during the Obama administration between 2011-2013 and featured a Republican House and Democratic Senate, was the least productive since modern records began, and it still passed 283 bills. Our current Congress has been in office over ten months and has only passed 13 bills. One authorized a commemorative coin; another renamed a VA facility. None have been very important. Simply put, the political system in Washington is not working.

The reason for this dysfunction lies in the attitude the parties have toward one another. They cannot solve problems because, put simply, solutions are no longer their goal. The sole aim in Washington now is fight, damage and defeat the other side. In the recent past, our most respected legislators were those who were able to find solutions across the aisle. Mike Enzi was a master of building consensus on real problems, working with Republicans and Democrats alike to find common ground. He was unquestionably conservative, and no one could accuse him of failing to stick to his principles, but he also understood that Congress has a real function. It needs to be able to address the genuine issues facing our country, otherwise it becomes impotent as a political entity. The refusal of our members in Congress to work together to find solutions merely means that all the political power now lies with the Presidency and the Judiciary. The legislative branch simply does not do anything, so it does not matter much anymore.

Those looking to the future in Wyoming cannot help but be troubled by the developments in Washington. We’re not there yet, but it is easy to imagine the same problems we see in the nation’s capital taking hold here in Wyoming. There are plenty of members of our own Legislature that are more concerned with scoring points against their political opponents than in doing the real work of governing.

Far too often, we see elected officials engaged in conduct intended solely to tear down their opponents. This is the same attitude that has led our Congress to dysfunction and purposelessness. We see behavior driven by personal vendettas and attempts to gain power for power’s sake, but little effort into developing thoughtful solutions. Our Legislature has not yet hit the wall of total dysfunction, but there have been moments when it seemed close. 

To combat this danger, the responsibility lies first with the voters. We must respond to the bad acts and bad attitude. If there is one thing politicians respond to, it is the risk of ouster. If we punish the bad actors, the conduct will surely change among those who remain. 

The second hope is that some of our public leaders will exhibit the courage to break the current cycle of conduct and seek real solutions. 

We need more Mike Enzis and fewer Matt Gaetzes. Both Wyoming and Washington would be far better off if we focused more on the problems and less on our opponents.

Cheyenne attorney Khale Lenhart is a former chairman of the Laramie County Republican Party. He can be reached at khale.lenhart@gmail.com

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  1. Unfortunately, billionaires and dark money pay for these evangelic and environgelic freak shows. Wyoming Promise is all we have left to create political stability for the future.

  2. Wow. Yes! Well said. These pages should go to every politician. ..wishful thinking. Thank you. I would copy this if I could.

  3. I can understand your attempt at making both sides of the political aisle appear dysfunctional, and I’d usually agree. However, in this current climate, the repubs win the batshit crazy award by a wide margin.

    Common sense and rational thinking left the gop long ago. To try and deflect that is disingenuous and a disservice to honesty.

  4. The author seems to posit that the mess last week was equally attributable to the Democrats. That’s being disingenuous. Everyone knows that what occurred is entirely on the Republicans. Washington is certainly dysfunctional, but few Republicans with any guts will admit Trump’s influence has a big part in that mix. As far as Wyoming, anyone who is paying attention recognizes that the Republicans are at war with each other for the soul of the party and the right wing is gaining ground. It isn’t to the level of Washington yet, but when good people like Tara Nethercott, Cale Case or, most recently, Forrest Chadwick are attacked, it’s clear that the Wyoming Republican Party is heading farther right.

  5. Wyoming, with its gathering of legislative and executive geeks, makes DC look fully functional. No need to invoke smoke, or mirrors.

  6. The Wyoming Legislature has not sunk to the depths of political disfunction that is seen in Congress, particularly in the House. Let’s hope that its focus is on problem solving and not on the petty name-calling and tribal warfare that has been been seen the past session or two.

  7. “There is Little to No difference between the Democaps and Repulsivcans” ~ Gerald Celente Celente goes on to say it’s a “Freak Show”!
    Both parties are completely captive to their Corporate Slave Masters and the Military Industrial Complex.
    The system is broken! Sorta like Humpty Dumpty!
    On Hope?….
    “Hope, in reality, is the worst of all evils because it prolongs the torments of man.”
    ― Friedrich Nietzsche

    1. Huey Long said the only difference between the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership is that one will skin you from the ankles up and the other one will skin you from the ears down. You can find his remarks on YouTube. Worth watching.