Skip to main content

New 'leadership,' same agenda

By Steve Israel
updated 4:05 PM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, right, was just elected House majority leader, and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, left, was just elected House majority whip.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, right, was just elected House majority leader, and Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, left, was just elected House majority whip.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rep. Steve Israel says House Republicans' new leaders have same party priorities
  • Israel: Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise were elected on pledges of fealty to the tea party
  • Republicans, he says, just replaced one leader of the GOP shutdown with another

Editor's note: U.S. Rep. Steve Israel is chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and represents New York's 3rd Congressional District. You can follow him on Twitter @IsraelDCCC. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- House Republicans just went through the pageantry of the changing of the guard with their leadership elections. But new names on the door won't change their party's priorities: protecting special interests, the ultra-wealthy and their own perks at the expense of middle-class Americans.

The term "Republican leadership" has become the biggest oxymoron in politics. If we learned one thing from Republicans' elections, it's that their leadership simply follows their tea party base in an unceasing march to the right.

Following their losses at the ballot box in 2012, Republicans rolled out a post-mortem calling for a move to the middle, recognizing that their days as a competitive national party were numbered if they continued on their current rightward path.

Since then, we have seen Republicans across the country do the exact opposite. They have grown more paranoid, more insular and more fearful. It's that fear of the tea party that shut down the government to disastrous consequences last year, and it's that fear that just caused them to replace one leader of the Republican shutdown with another.

Rep. Steve Israel
Rep. Steve Israel

In 2011, when John Boehner took over as speaker, he was billed as a moderate. And Eric Cantor was called mainstream. But both alternated between being hamstrung by and kowtowing to their right wing and drove their majority off a cliff.

And the numbers speak for themselves: after three and a half years, they have turned Congress into the least-trusted institution in America. Gallup now pegs confidence in Congress at just 7% — the lowest confidence rating for any institution ever recorded by Gallup in the past 40 years.

With ratings that abysmal, one might think that House Republicans might use a turnover in leadership as an opportunity to steer their sinking ship in a new direction. Think again.

Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise are members of the same tea party club and were elected on pledges of fealty to the tea party agenda. And that agenda will keep turning off the American public, dragging their ratings down and dragging Republicans further and further outside the mainstream.

The tragedy is that the middle class pays the price.

How did we get to this place, where the House majority continues to move so far from the center of American politics that they can no longer see it? NBC News provides some clues, finding in its polling that "the Tea Party is in a VERY different place on key issues" than even other, mainstream Republicans.

Take immigration as an example. Just 19% of tea party Republicans believe immigration helps the United States, compared to 47% of the country at large. With House Republicans beholden to this tiny minority of the country at large, they will continue to drag their party to the right — and their so-called leadership will have no choice but to follow, if they want to keep their jobs.

You can change the names on the door, but the out-of-touch agenda remains the same. If the country is to have any hope of combating the serious challenges facing us and creating an economy that works to lift up middle-class families, we need more than just a change of figureheads in the House.

We need to change the House majority.

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook.com/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT