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by Brenda Looper | January 11, 2023 at 4:13 a.m.
Brenda Looper

At 11:30 Friday night, I finally was able to turn off my laptop and go to bed.

I could have gone to bed earlier, had the Republicans in the House been able to recognize that they needed at least three rather than two "present" votes to bring down the margin enough so that Kevin McCarthy could finally be voted in as the 55th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. But then we wouldn't have been able to witness the near-coming-to-blows after the 14th vote failed and Mike Rogers of Alabama had to be physically restrained from going after Matt Gaetz of Florida.

Is it any wonder there were bags of popcorn on the floor (no alcohol, though, despite the accusation by Kat Cammack of Florida in her McCarthy nomination speech in the sixth round) toted by Democrats, plus a book with a not-appropriate-for-a-family-newspaper title being read by Katie Porter of California?

While it was entertaining at times, and certainly historic, coming in as the fifth-longest vote--the last time a speaker vote took longer was 164 years ago (1859, at 44 ballots; the longest was 133 ballots in 1855)--there were things I could have done instead of watching those votes, which had gone on for days as McCarthy struggled to rustle up enough votes. While I worked during the week, I had The Washington Post live feed and The New York Times vote-tracker up so that I could keep track of what was going on, and votes to adjourn were harder to get after the first two days. Can't say I blame those who didn't want to adjourn; I wanted it over too.

The interminable performative displays from the holdouts were awful enough (what was with all the yelling during nomination speeches?), especially when appealing to moderates rather than a subset of far-right ideologues might have moved the process along without the empowerment of a raucous minority that threatens to keep governance at a standstill for the foreseeable future (and oh, joy, the rules package with all those concessions passed Monday).

Had I not been watching/listening to the proceedings last week, I could have:

• Spent more time with fur-nephew Charlie. The boy was discombobulated, having been stuck with Aunt Brenda while his mom was in Florida, and then having Mom return midweek, so he wasn't quite sure what to do with himself. And then Aunt Brenda noticed a wound that meant he'd have to go to the vet to address it. Poor little guy ... but at least he's feeling better now, and even more lovey.

• Watched the birds and squirrels in the backyard at Sarah's. While Charlie's mom was in Florida, I had to sweep up a bag of wildlife food that had been torn into (we suspect the chonky squirrel we named Kevin last spring is the perpetrator) and put it into a container not as easily breached. In the process, I put some of the food on the picnic table bought specifically for the squirrels, and the next day noticed squirrels chowing down. A day later, there was a kerfuffle when birds started going for the food on the table rather than their feeders, and Kevin was not happy, swiping at a few of them. How dare those birds do to him what he had been doing to them?!?!?

• Done more puzzles. I had brought over a jigsaw puzzle to work on while house/cat-sitting, but never managed to find time to do it. Puzzles were also brought back from Florida for me. I had forgotten how relaxing jigsaw puzzles can be, especially for people like me who sometimes don't handle deviation from schedules, etc., very well. Having just one way for things to fit together can be a comfort in a world where so little is simple.

• Watched more movies. I finished up several series over the holidays while watching over Charlie, who had taken to nesting in a blanket on the living room couch while I worked. When I finished work, then and only then would I turn on the TV to wind down (Charlie likes to watch "Today," but he was OK just chilling next to me). Several movies/TV shows have been added to my various queues, and I could have spent some of that time I was paying attention to the speaker vote paring them down. Sorry, "Black Adam" and other recent additions; I'll get to you eventually.

Hopefully it will be before you disappear.

There are other things I could have done rather than pay attention to the speaker vote, like eat more chocolate or worry about my car situation (still waiting on word from the other guy's insurance company), etc., but that wouldn't really be all that healthy physically or emotionally. I also could have walked more, but motivation was severely lacking.

Now that the vote is over, though, I'll probably go back to not paying much attention to the House unless something happens to put it high on my radar again. I try to keep track of what's going on, but not to the point of obsession. Considering the things that have happened in the last several years, though, perhaps I shouldn't temper that obsession so much.

Then again, worrying about things I can't affect isn't a great idea. Chocolate, on the other hand ...

Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at Read her blog at

Print Headline: Woulda, coulda


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