It’s Not Like Republicans Were Doing the “People’s Business” Anyway

“We are in a very bad place right now,” Kevin McCarthy admitted Friday afternoon, just after Jim Jordan lost a third speaker vote and not long before members of the Republican majority went home for another weekend while the House remained leaderless. 

Today marks 20 days without a speaker of the House, a historic failure by the majority party to govern. But it’s not all grim. The upside is that for nearly three weeks, there have been no hearings about impeaching Joe Biden or gas stoves. Marjorie Taylor Greene hasn’t been able to grandstand from her perch on the powerful Oversight and Accountability Committee. Jordan and company haven’t had a chance to weaponize the government against their political foes.

Jordan’s bungling attempt to become speaker seems not to have discouraged others though, as nine Republicans are now competing for the job. “9 candidates is A LOT,” wrote Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman. “Shows discontent w the field and front runner — or lack of fear. Also raises real questions that anyone will get 217 this week.”

While the burn-it-all-down crew wasn’t able to make Jordan speaker, they may be able to  bring down a speaker candidate. Majority whip Tom Emmer, someone who has leadership clout and McCarthy’s endorsement, is already running into opposition from Donald Trump and his allies. Emmer was one of the minority of House Republicans who didn’t try to overturn the 2020 election on January 6, making him a villain in MAGA world. Steve Bannon called Emmer a “Trump hater,” while Trump lawyer Boris Epshteyn noted that Emmer hasn’t endorsed Trump yet for 2024. “If somebody is so out of step with where the Republican electorate is, where the MAGA movement is, how can they even be in the conversation?” Epshteyn said on Friday’s War Room podcast. “We need a MAGA speaker.”

When the “crazy eight” led by Matt Gaetz voted to remove McCarthy, they probably didn’t realize just how hard it would be to fill the job. They may have thought they could will a Jordan speakership into being. After all, Trump continues to rule the Republican party—he’s polling at around 57%, according to FiveThirtyEight—and Jordan is Trump’s guy. Heck, Jordan spoke at “Stop the Steal” rallies and met with Trump campaign officials and shopped bogus claims of election fraud. He was still refusing last week to admit the obvious: that Joe Biden fairly and legitimately won the 2020 election. 

But the Trump endorsement wasn’t the golden ticket it has been in some Republican primary contests. It’s worth considering if Trump’s power in the GOP is diminished, or if the former president may be distracted by his legal troubles, which seemed to recently get a lot worse in Georgia, the site of just one of four criminal trials he’s facing. Either way, it doesn’t bode particularly well for Trump or his supporters.

Jordan lost three speakership votes, as well as secret ballot among Republicans, despite he or his allies using every play in the MAGA playbook, such as bullying a Congressman’s wife. “My wife has been getting anonymous texts and phone calls to compel her to get me to change my vote, which is wrong … trying to bully my wife is wrong,” Rep. Don. Bacon told ABC News. She ended up sleeping with a loaded gun and Jordan ended up not becoming speaker.

Republicans have recently expressed frustration with the weeks-long debacle in Washington. “We cannot have an entire branch of government offline when the world is on fire,” Pennsylvania representative Brian Fitzpatrick told CNN’s Manu Raju. On Sunday’s This Week, Michael McCaul, a 10-term Congressman from Texas, said “This is probably one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen, because if we don’t have a speaker of the House, we can’t govern.” Nebraska’s Mike Flood, in urging his fellow Republicans to sign a unity pledge to move forward with a speaker, has stressed the need to “to get on with the people’s business.”

But one can argue that since Republicans took control of the House, they’ve barely governed at all. If anything, they’ve spent more time trying to gum up the works, fighting with the Biden administration, harassing federal employees, and being obstructionists. And in doing the “people’s business,” the House GOP has prioritized the interests of a small, right-wing minority in America.

It was clear as soon as the Republicans won the majority, last November, that the far-right would be emboldened. (“The Marjorie Taylor Greene Congress is upon us,” I declared at the time). And though McCarthy seized the speaker’s gavel in January, it took him 15 ballots to grind it out and only after making concessions to the party’s right flank. McCarthy got the job he coveted, but without job security as he agreed that any single member could call for a motion to vacate. 

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