Marjorie Taylor Greene Gave Speaker Hopefuls an Awkward Ultimatum

House Republicans are looking to nominate a new Speaker in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, after three weeks of standstill. But before any ballots could be cast, Marjorie Taylor Greene had a question for the candidates looking to replace Kevin McCarthy: “Which one of you have the balls to hold them accountable?” the Georgia Republican reportedly asked the Speaker hopefuls Monday evening, making clear she expects the winner to use the gavel as a cudgel against Joe Biden and members of his administration like Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland—people who, she told reporters afterward, “make the American peoples’ lives a living hell.”

Greene likely doesn’t need to worry about the candidates’ commitment to hardline political games: All but two in the running voted against certifying the 2020 election, and one of those who did rubber-stamp it—Tom Emmer, the frontrunner du jour—has seemingly spent the last few days trying to make amends with the far-right for it. But her ultimatum is yet another reminder of who’s calling the shots right now in the GOP. If anyone in this dysfunctional conference does manage to get to 217, they’ll be immediately squeezed between the same rock and hard place McCarthy was just before his ouster.

If you’ll remember, McCarthy got the gavel earlier this year after an agonizing 15 ballots and a series of concessions that weakened—and eventually ended—his speakership. His successor, whoever that ends up being, may assume the job in an even worse position—even more beholden to the likes of Greene and Matt Gaetz, who led the push to remove McCarthy and claimed Monday to have extracted pledges from each of the candidates to help further white-wash the January 6 insurrection.

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That probably wasn’t too difficult to do; the GOP ranks are rife with that kind of hostility to democracy. But there are, of course, degrees of derangement: While Emmer, currently the majority whip, signed onto a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Biden’s 2020 election win, he ultimately voted to certify it. That has made him a target of Trump allies, who have spent the last few days trashing his speaker bid. “He’s openly hostile to Trump, which isn’t helpful since Trump will be the nominee,” as one anti-Emmer Republican put it to Politico yesterday.

Emmer, aware that Trump opposition could tank his chances, has kissed the former president’s ring in an effort to beat back the narrative: “I think he’s my biggest fan now, because he called me yesterday and he told me, ‘I’m your biggest fan,’” Trump told reporters Monday, drawing laughter from his lackeys. “I’ve always gotten along with him.” It was nowhere near an endorsement—“We’re looking at a lot of people,” Trump said—but it was good enough for Emmer. “Thank you, Mr. President,” the whip wrote.

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All this knee-bending would be embarrassing enough. But it’s unclear this humiliation will even succeed in making the math work for Emmer or one of his fellow aspirants. “I like to be an optimist,” as South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson told Politico. “But I would tell you the last four weeks have not provided me a lot of reason to be optimistic that Republicans are going to have their act together.”

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