A lot of Republicans may be wondering what the hell just happened.
Before we get into the GOP infighting, however, let’s lay the blame for the chaos in the House squarely where it belongs — on the Democrat’s doorstep. Recall, it was Nancy Pelosi who arbitrarily altered longstanding rules and stacked committees with only the members she wanted.
This while corrupt partisan prosecutors threatened political opponents with bankruptcy, if not jail time. No doubt, to help distract attention away from the most fundamental assault on the nation’s economy and culture in history. From $33 trillion in debt to defunding police to redefining gender.
It goes without saying the media predictably had a field day observing the Republican agonistes. But the kind of existential crisis Democrats have wrought is bound to elicit an overreaction from the other side of the aisle. In this case, the fear that GOP leadership wasn’t giving as good as it got.
And, of course, Democrats were just as eager to go along in booting Speaker Kevin McCarthy as they were in ‘cheering’ (that’s being generous) an errant if not corrupt Census count that might have precipitated this week’s palace intrigue.
As I noted almost a year ago on these pages, the Census Bureau “overcounted the population of eight states, all but one of which is a blue state … Texas and Florida should each have received an additional seat in the House. Rhode Island and Minnesota should each have lost a congressional seat — but didn’t. Colorado was given an additional seat it didn’t deserve.”
Gee, good thing we don’t count ballots that way.
The point is, had McCarthy’s margin in the House been larger — as it undoubtedly would have with congressional representation from accurate Census numbers — he’d likely have survived any attempt to “vacate.”
But let’s be clear about one thing. It wasn’t just a few disgruntled House backbenchers who jeopardized McCarthy’s speakership from the get-go.
In 2022, with the GOP set to fashion a new budget resolution for fiscal year 2023, the Senate decided in a lame duck session to preempt them. Led by the ‘dirty dozen’ (actually 18) Republicans who worked hand-in-hand with Democrats to pass a massive $1.7 omnibus bill, the Senate will once again prove to be the real obstacle for conservatives in the House now led by one of their own, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana.
This is why taking down McCarthy for actually negotiating a leaner debt ceiling deal or a continuing resolution that was more fiscally restrained — and therefore, less likely to pass the uniparty Senate — was probably a fool’s errand.
But if Johnson, a sincere conservative, can put teeth in budget resolutions and finally rein-in out of control appropriators in his own conference, it may yet be worth it.
McCarthy’s detractors point to a side deal he allegedly made with Joe Biden on more Ukraine funding. If true, it was because more than half of the Republican conference wanted it.
As it turns out, however, House Freedom Caucus leader Jim Jordan was also making deals in his bid for speaker, including relaxing the SALT limitations in the Tax Cut & Jobs Act.
My guess is Johnson had to do some wheeling and dealing to mollify the John Bolton—Liz Cheney caucus that remains steadfast in giving Chuck Schumer whatever he wants in order to “plus-up” the Pentagon and send billions more abroad to secure the borders of other nations while ours falls apart.
In fact, the zeal with which the hardline hawks in the Republican conference (in and out of the Freedom Caucus) operate knows few bounds when Matt Gaetz and Chip Roy both vote for a budget-busting $826 billion Pentagon bill.
Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, who was one of the never-Kevin holdouts in the first speakership impasse, went on Fox News to declare we’ve got to hold the line on spending and then, in the same breath, committed himself to increasing a military budget that’s gone up over $100 billion in three years.
You have to wonder what’s in the water in the Palmetto State.
Channeling their inner-Nikki Haley, a few even appear to be turning into woke warfighters. Reps. Mike Gallager, Don Bacon, Mike Turner, Nancy Mace and Mike Waltz even thought it was a good idea to vote for a bill that critics say opens the door for all sorts of social experiments at the federal level, including the Defense Department.
So did Tom Emmer of Minnesota, a state whose requirements for public office quickly made him a dead man walking for conservatives in the caucus.
So where does this leave us?
Well, if the McCarthy coup means anything in the way of policy change, the choice of Johnson was the correct one.
With the current make-up of a conference willing to trade welfare spending for war spending, there are no guarantees. But the election of the four-term Louisianan represents a big departure from the status quo.
Why, he even opposed a blank check to a foreign war in Eastern Europe.
That’s a start.
Former Congressman Jason Lewis is the author of Party Animal, The Truth About President Trump, Power Politics and the Partisan Press. He also writes at jasonlewis.substack.com.
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