This week in politics: Jan. 1st


Brennan Eberwine

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg was sworn in on Monday, ushering in a new era for Louisville as the Kentucky General Assembly and United States Congress gaveled into session. Photo by Brennan Eberwine

Brennan Eberwine

The 2023 political calendar is officially underway, with new faces and agendas in force on the national, state and local levels. However, some chambers are having more trouble than others starting out.


118th Congress off to a rocky start

In the 2022 midterm elections, Republicans clinched a slim majority in the House of Representatives, bringing them into power there for the first time since 2018. It seems as though the delegation is having trouble with the first order of business: who will be Speaker of the House?

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California should be the obvious pick as the incumbent minority leader of the House, but McCarthy has been having trouble obtaining the top job. There have been rumblings that  Rep. McCarthy does not have the full support of Republicans to become Speaker. 

This is relatively normal, as several members of the Democratic caucus choose to support other candidates when Rep. Nancy Pelosi took the job in 2019. A Speaker only needs a majority (218 votes) and they generally get them before the vote on the floor. However, Rep. McCarthy is facing opposition from a number of far-right conservatives who want concessions that will give them more influence in the House. Some key demands include creating a balanced budget and giving rank-and-file members more say in key policy decisions. Issues around spending in particular could leave the House unable to pass expenditures in a divided government.

Despite pleas from Republican House leadership, and an endorsement from former President Donald Trump urging the representatives to vote for Rep. McCarthy, the House remained deadlocked at 11 votes before some progress was made. Only seven Republican representatives are now blocking McCarthy’s victory, but it is unclear how many more votes will flip.

As a result of this, the House of Representatives is vacant. The Speaker of the House swears in the rest of the House, so with no Speaker available, no representatives can formally take office. For example, newly elected Rep. Morgan McGarvey, who is replacing Rep. John Yarmuth, has not been sworn in, nor has noted New York con-man Rep. George Santos. 

A lengthy deadlock of this nature has not been experienced since 1923, and reflects a fracture in the Republican party between the establishment and far-right members. It’s unorthodox to see Republicans divided like this, as they’re typically the more cohesive party compared to the broad coalition of Democrats. 

Former Speaker Pelosi’s hallmark was never going to the floor unless she had the votes for a motion, usually keeping the party in-fighting behind closed doors. It’s clear with her departure that this is not the model Republicans will be employing.


Kentucky General Assembly kicks off and the Governor’s race heats up

Unlike the United States Congress, Kentucky’s legislative branch started smoothly and is already in full swing. Republicans’s top priority has been to lower the state income tax from 5% to 4% in 2024, with the intent to eventually fully eliminate the tax eventually. This will hopefully attract more business and residents to the state, emulating a similar model to states like Tennessee. Republicans are backing up the cuts with the recent surpluses the state budget has created. However, the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy says the cut will lower state revenue by roughly $1.2 billion.

The bill has passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 79-19, with only one Democrat supporting the measure. It’s expected to swiftly pass through the Senate, though it’s unclear whether Democratic Governor Andy Beshear would sign the bill into law.

Other bills of note that have been filed include Senate Bill 50, which would require several public offices to have partisan races such as school board candidates and county and water commissioner. House Bill 120 would ban gender-affirming care for minors, while House Bill 124 would ban TikTok on government devices.

In Kentucky’s executive branch, the 2023 Gubernatorial election officially got rolling as several candidates filed for the Republican primary, including former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft, Agricultural Commissioner Ryan Quarles and Attorney General Daniel Cameron. 

There have also been rumblings of Former Gov. Matt Bevin potentially seeking a rematch for his relinquished position, fueled by a tweet from him heading east on the highway towards Frankfort today. Members of the Kentucky press pool rushed to Frankfort to camp out outside the Secretary of State’s office awaiting Bevin. Bevin eventually arrived for a short press conference in the Capitol rotunda, in which he criticized policies within Kentucky before walking out, indicating he is not in fact running for governor.

New Mayor, New era for Louisville

After 12 years, Louisville Mayor Greg “peoples mayor” Fischer has officially been replaced by incoming Mayor Craig Greenberg. Mr. Greenberg was sworn in at Louisville Metro City Hall on Monday. The focal point of his campaign and inauguration speech was public safety, with Louisville’s homicide rate spiking in the last three years. A main part will be what he calls “fully funding” Louisville Metro Police Department and restoring trust in the organization.  been embroiled in scandals and a revolving door of police chiefs ever since 2020 when protests erupted over the police shooting of Breonna Taylor.

Other major initiatives include adding 15,000 affordable housing units as the city has faced a shortage, and working with Mr. Beshear on universal Pre-K, a key issue Beshear pushed for during the 2022 regular session.

Greenberg met the public in an open house reception after his inauguration alongside his wife. Only time will tell how the rest of Greenberg’s tenure will look.