Bob Michel

Will Speaker Boehner be a Bob Michel or a Newt Gingrich?

This writer recently wrote a commentary entitled “Will GOP Leaders Become Bob Michelized?”  Unfortunately, during the past couple of weeks, the answer seems to be in the affirmative.  The headline referred to the former Republican House Minority Leader, Congressman Bob Michel, R-IL, who was perfectly content to position his party in the minority for his entire 14 years as GOP leader in the House of Representatives.  That is, until an upstart Republican Congressman from Georgia, Newt Gingrich, warned Michel that he would challenge him for Republican leader during the next congressional leader elections.  Michel promptly announced that he would not run for reelection in 1994.

Meanwhile, because House Minority Whip Gingrich organized a massive and historic issues-oriented campaign during the election of 1994, including a “Contract with America,” he not only became leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, but Gingrich became Speaker of the House.

Will GOP Leaders Become Bob Michelized?

The 1994 election provides a beacon of hope for Republicans in Congress.  Voters in the historical mid-term election gave control of the United States House of Representatives to the Republicans for the first time in 40 years.  The last time the Republicans gained control of the House was when Dwight David Eisenhower won his overwhelming victory over Adlai Stevenson in 1952.

Senate Republicans also regained control of the Senate from 1953 to 1955, just as the Republicans in the House did.  While House Republicans were in the political wilderness for the next 40 years, President Ronald Reagan’s two landslides in 1980 and 1984 gave Republicans control of the Senate for six years.

The reason the U.S. Congress was controlled by the Democrats for most of the 40 years prior to the 1994 election can best be personified by the long-time minority  --  emphasis on minority  --  leader, Congressman Bob Michel, a very kind and genial man, but a highly ineffective leader.  Congressman Michel was perfectly content to accept crumbs from the Democrat spending feast.  If the Democrats promised a cut of $1 dollar in federal spending for every $1 tax increase  --  a highly unlikely proposal since they normally wanted more tax increases --  you can bet the spending cuts would not materialize following the tax increases because of decades of weak Republican leadership.

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