When Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy ordered an investigation into the Manhattan district attorney’s ongoing criminal probe of former President Donald Trump, he broke with the body’s long-standing norms. After all, federal lawmakers typically don’t try to assert oversight of county-level investigations of American citizens.

But, as Sarah Burns, a scholar of the legislative branch at Rochester Institute of Technology, writes this week, McCarthy’s order was just one in a litany of norm-breaking moves affecting how the House of Representatives operates. House Republican members’ forcing 15 ballots before the body elected McCarthy speaker of the House at the beginning of this legislative session was another.

“The norms of governance in the House provide stability and clarity regarding what type of behavior is and is not allowed among members. But when those norms are broken, a series of devolving consequences can follow,” Burns writes.

Whatever is motivating the behavior and decisions of House members, Americans are watching.

Lorna Grisby

Senior Politics & Society Editor

Speaker Kevin McCarthy at a news conference on Capitol Hill. Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In Congress, breaking unwritten rules that encouraged civility and enabled things to get done is becoming the new normal

Sarah Burns, Rochester Institute of Technology

The House of Representatives is breaking norms and establishing a new way for the body to do business.

Acts of secession are happening across the U.S. Vector Illustration/Getty Images

Secession is here: States, cities and the wealthy are already withdrawing from America

Michael J. Lee, College of Charleston

Secession talk evokes fears of a second Civil War. But one scholar says secession is already happening in the US under a variety of guises.

The state takeover is based largely on one school. Maskot / Getty Images

The state takeover of Houston public schools is about more than school improvement

Domingo Morel, New York University

Political power and a history of racism lurk behind the recent state takeover of the Houston public school system.

Public radio can help solve the local news crisis – but that would require expanding staff and coverage

Thomas E. Patterson, Harvard Kennedy School

The local news crisis is more than a problem of shuttered newsrooms and laid-off journalists. It’s a democracy crisis. And public radio can help fix it. But it needs more money and staff to do that.

The view from Moscow and Beijing: What peace in Ukraine and a post-conflict world look like to Xi and Putin

Ronald Suny, University of Michigan

The setting was grand, so too was the plan. But behind the peace plan put forward by China and welcomed by Russia, is the question, what do both nations seek?

Trump’s unprecedented call for protests is the latest sign of his aim to degrade America’s institutions

Shelley Inglis, University of Dayton

When former President Donald Trump summoned his fans to protest over what he called his imminent indictment, a scholar of democracy saw it as an autocratic move.

Antisemitism on Twitter has more than doubled since Elon Musk took over the platform – new research

Carl Miller, King's College London

New research shows that antisemitic posts surged as the ‘free speech absolutist’ took over the social media giant. And it has settled at a higher level since.

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