House GOP radicals eyeing open Senate seats could make McConnell's life a living hell

House GOP radicals eyeing open Senate seats could make McConnell's life a living hell
Mitch McConnell/Shutterstock

Some of the very same Republican lawmakers who helped make the House GOP caucus ungovernable have designs on doing the same in the Senate. In some cases, retirements of old-school "establishment" Republicans such as Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio and Roy Blunt of Missouri are opening up avenues for advancement among a cadre GOP radicals ranging from staunch Trumpers to Freedom Caucus cranks. In other cases, those radicals are looking to take on newly elected Democrats in states like Arizona and Georgia.

Both scenarios are bad news for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. On the front end, candidates earning Donald Trump's endorsement in more moderate, swingy states could doom Senate Republican chances to net seats in the general election. But on the backend, Trump endorsees in deep red states will be shoe-ins to prevail in the primary and ultimately head to the Senate, where they can turn the GOP caucus into an even bigger rat's nest of backbiters and chaos.

Trump ally and seditionist leader Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama is just such a firebrand. If he wins Trump's approval to make a run for the state's open seat following Sen. Richard Shelby's retirement, Brooks promises to rival someone like Cancún Cruz for bragging rights as the most destructive force in the Senate.

In fact, Brooks is already throwing shade at people like Sen. Shelby, who for instance voted to certify Joe Biden's victory. "It's pretty clear that our more liberal, establishment brethren in the Senate have not been faring well," Brooks told Politico of the McConnell-aligned GOP forces in the Senate. "Those were the only ones that lost in 2020. And our conservatives won." Gee, nothing like the can-do camaraderie flowing from Republican lawmakers these days—heartwarming.

Speaking of that good-old GOP spirit of cooperation—Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, another hardcore Trump ally, represents exactly the type of unhinged bomb-thrower that could sink GOP chances to retake the Senate. Same goes for Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, who gained notoriety following the Jan. 6 insurrection and has reportedly spoken to Trump about a potential Senate bid.

All of these factors set up the potential for McConnell's nightmare scenario—failing to retake the upper chamber but being stuck with an entirely ungovernable caucus. McConnell has already seen shades of that future when he lost control of his caucus on the vote to certify the 2020 elections and later failed to rally his caucus to put a final nail in Trump's political coffin with a vote to convict.

A takeover of the Senate Republican caucus by GOP radicals would be a natural progression of where the party has been headed for over a decade, after Tea Party activists first infiltrated the House caucus in the 2010 midterms. In 2015, the newly founded House Freedom Caucus effectively sabotaged GOP Speaker John Boehner into retirement. Even with unified control of government in 2017, then-Speaker Paul Ryan and McConnell could only hold their fractious factions together for one major vote—the giant GOP tax giveaway to the rich. Now the House Republican caucus is so rabid, it can't even mount an effective opposition to House Democrats. One veteran Republican lawmaker, Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, has been so frustrated by the antics of low-level extremists like Greene, he told CNN, "It's a pain in the ass."

That dysfunctional brand of GOP radicalism infected the House first and then the White House. It's coming for the Senate next, one way or the other.

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