Long before becoming House Speaker was even a twinkle in Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s eye, there was GOP Speaker John Boehner, the first victim of the House Freedom Caucus and the Tea Party fervor that ultimately fueled the recalcitrant Republican faction.
Then came Speaker Paul Ryan, haplessly out of step with the party of political hooligans Republicans were becoming and just barely able to push through a giant tax cut for the wealthy before being forced into retirement.
Now McCarthy—who wants to be the next Republican speaker so badly he can practically taste it—is grappling with an even more toxic brand of House GOP bomb-throwers who are already proving he’s no match for their Trump-driven nihilism. They weren’t elected to fix problems, they were elected to burn it all down—and that’s exactly what they’re trying to do, consequences be damned.
McCarthy is attempting to convince that crowd that trying to jam every piece of legislation with a lengthy series of useless procedural votes might not prove to be the best optics for GOP opposition to Democrats. In response, one Freedom Caucus crank recently lit into McCarthy behind closed doors, according to Politico.
Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona and McCarthy reportedly had a tense exchange at a closed-door conference meeting on Wednesday in which McCarthy argued that Biggs’ procedural antics were only hurting the caucus. He also pressed his members to stay focused on GOP messaging about the growing crisis of migrant children crossing the border.
“Biggs responded that some members have been visiting the border for years and didn’t just show up there recently — a not-so-subtle dig at McCarthy, who led a GOP delegation to the border earlier this week,” writes Politico.
Biggs later downplayed the exchange, saying he didn’t think it was particularly pointed. “People are passionate,” Biggs offered, without going into detail. “If we won’t use every procedural tool in the toolbox we have … yes, that frustrates me. … You’ve got to get in the way and try to slow things down as much as you possibly can.”
Yep, bomb-throwers at every possible turn. Perhaps even moreso than in past iterations of the House Freedom Caucus, the group’s newest members seem to plan on demonstrating zero strategic discipline. There will be no picking and choosing, just a total disruption campaign—a product of the chaos Donald Trump has now sewn into the fabric of the Republican Party.
House lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say that a persistent effort by these GOP members to jam floor votes at every turn could result in mayhem. Members would be constantly called away from other business, such as committee meetings, to cast meaningless-but-technically-necessary roll call votes to overcome the procedural hurdles.
House Democratic leaders have reportedly been working with McCarthy to stem the increasingly vexing chaos, but it’s clear McCarthy has little sway with this scrappy band of Trump acolytes who believe their mandate is to grind the chamber to a halt rather than deliver any meaningful laws to their constituents.
The House majority leader has also promised the Democratic caucus that a fix is coming soon. “By the time we come back in April, we will have resolved the [Republican] obstruction via negotiation or by a change to the rules,” Hoyer said on a caucus-wide call Wednesday.
Whatever that fix is will likely be imperfect and far short of 100% foolproof. “Without getting into the details, there are options. But here’s the deal: It’d be nice if the minority leader would tell some of his members to behave like grown-ups,” House Rules Chairman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts told Politico. “This is serious work we’re doing. These are serious debates we’re having. And most complaints I’m getting, quite frankly, are from Republicans. Because they’re annoyed.”
True. Veteran Republican lawmakers appear to be equally as frustrated as Democrats by their unruly underlings. To people like GOP Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, the pandemonium offers no strategic upside. “It’s frustrating,” Rep. Upton told CNN. “I don’t see that this is resonating at home, the motions to adjourn. I mean it’s just a pain. It’s a pain in the ass.”
Republican Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska agreed. “Our whole goal is to take back the House. And you need a good strategy to do it,” he said. “The leader’s made a plan that he thinks will get us there. And so you don’t want to have 10, 15 different people doing their own plan.”
But this is where the Republican Party is: Overrun by a small but corrosive faction of individualists who feel almost no loyalty to party and even less allegiance to country. That may sell well in their home districts (which is clearly all they care about), but it’s not helping House Republicans plot a course to the majority in 2022, and it’s certainly not helping the country.