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Sweet: Emanuel says House GOP needs to work through ‘some issues’

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WASHINGTON — Mayor Rahm Emanuel, assessing the turmoil in the House GOP that led to House Speaker John Boehner’s intention to quit, said here Thursday, “They have some issues as a party they need to work through that maybe Blue Cross and Blue Shield can help.”

Back in the days when there were earmarks, the House functioned better, Emanuel said, though he stopped short of a call to bring back the spending favors that often lubricated the process and helped make things work across party lines.

With House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s stunning decision to opt out of the race for speaker on Thursday, House Republicans are showing they can’t govern themselves, much less the country.

Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the 2012 vice presidential candidate, is the most mentioned to replace Boehner, R-Ohio, who said Thursday he will stay on the job until his colleague choose a new speaker. He announced his departure last month, driven out by 40 far-right members of the Freedom Caucus. Ryan said he does not want the job.

McCarthy may not have had the votes to be elected speaker later this month. Speaking to reporters, he reflected that his recent comments about the Benghazi Committee hurting Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid didn’t help. So while Thursday started with McCarthy on track to be speaker, it ended with a mess.


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Right before the chaos broke out in the Capitol, Emanuel was speaking at a Washington Post conference on “Bridging the Digital Divide,” wrapping up the second of two days here.

Emanuel called for the federal government to make it mandatory for high school students to take computer coding classes. It should be a “national priority,” Emanuel said.

The mayor was being interviewed by Post political reporter Robert Costa, and the news about McCarthy dropping out of the speaker’s race broke moments after their session concluded.

Since the House GOP was already in turmoil, Costa asked Emanuel — a House Democratic leader before he became President Barack Obama’s chief of staff — about Boehner’s departure.

Emanuel noted that former speaker Newt Gingrich and now Boehner were taken down as a result of internal, ideological disagreements, with Republicans turning on their own.

Using the nickname for good government crusaders, “goo-goos,” Emanuel then brought up the old days, before earmarks were banned: “All you goo-goo people that like good government . . . notice that once you took earmarks out of the system how much legislation has gotten done.”

LBJ, FDR and Abraham Lincoln used spending to woo votes, Emanuel noted.

“They were able to get the political system working. . . . You got your good government. How’s it working out for you, all you goo-goos?” he said.

Not well for Republicans, that’s for sure.

“It’s a tough caucus to unite right now,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. Boehner leaving and McCarthy folding his bid to replace him sends a message to the American people about “our ability to govern,” he said.

If Ryan changes his mind and runs for speaker — no other major contender surfaced as of Thursday night — Ryan “would win,” Kinzinger said.

Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., considered but then declined to run for a leadership post when it looked like there may be a shuffle at the top. On Thursday, he was one of 20 — along with Ryan — who signed a letter asking colleagues to slow things down.

Earlier, Roskam organized a meeting to take stock of the situation. Clearly those few hours were not enough, given the McCarthy meltdown.

Their diagnosis for the Blue Cross, Blue Shield claim: “It is our strong feeling that Members need to come together to figure out what we are and where we are going as a Conference, before we figure out who will lead us.”

Follow Lynn Sweet on Twitter: @LynnSweet

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