GOP civil war in House, Senate escalates as factions splinter

GOP civil war in House, Senate escalates as factions splinter
Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California speaking at the 2016 Republican National ConventionRep. Kevin McCarthy of California speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Wikimedia Commons

The would-be leaders of the Republican House and Senate conferences are in for some wild times as recriminations and power struggles take precedence in both chambers. In the House, the tiny majority Republicans has every faction plotting how they’ll control Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. In the Senate, leader Mitch McConnell is under pretty much daily attack from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the guy who blew all of the National Republican Senate Committee’s money and is still blaming McConnell for not winning the majority.

There are still five uncalled House races, but it’s looking like McCarthy will have a 222-213 majority. He needs 218 to become speaker and to pass anything, and right now, that’s in jeopardy. Two Republicans—Reps. Matt Gaetz of Florida and Andy Biggs of Arizona—have said flat out they won’t vote for him as speaker. Two more, Reps. Matt Rosendale of Montana and Bob Good of Virginia, have signaled that they are opposed to McCarthy, but haven’t definitively said they’ll vote against him. Biggs challenged McCarthy in last week’s vote and got 31 votes.

McCarthy is clearly chasing those votes. He’s already all but promised Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the Georgia MAGA maniac, that she’ll get a coveted Oversight Committee post. He’s also vowed that he’ll kick Democrats off of committees in retaliation for the Democrats stripping Greene and Paul Gosar of committee assignments. He’ll oust Democrats Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the Select Committee on Intelligence (which he can do because it’s not a standing committee) and Ilhan Omar from Foreign Affairs, which is subject to a vote of the full House. All of this is to court the maniacs.

Which leaves a fairly large group of moderate Republicans (and calling a bunch of people who didn’t agree to birth control as a right “moderate” means we need better political descriptors) feeling like they can exert some pressure of their own.

“Kevin’s not stupid,” said Rep. Dave Joyce of Ohio, leader of the Republican Governance Group. “He’s trying to add to his numbers, not destroy his base. And so I count on his political acumen to know what’s acceptable to the rank and file inside the conference.” Joyce is clearly in flattery mode with McCarthy, because he’s rarely characterized by his smarts, political or otherwise.

Two other groups, the Main Street Caucus and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, are strategizing about how to influence him as well. The latter group has about 50 members, and while they’ve never solved any problems, they could definitely trip McCarthy up, if those 50 members can remain unified. “We just want to make the group more accountable … I mean, the whole point of our group is to stick together on the floor when we endorse bills,” Republican Brian Fitzpatrick said. He also told Politico that even Freedom Caucus members have approached him about potential alliances. Which kind of shoots the whole “problem solving” moniker to hell since the maniacs are the problem.

The Main Street Caucus of Republicans, Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska says, has nearly 90 members and is sick of the maniacs. “It’s time we flex our muscles,” he said. Last week Bacon floated the possibility that his group would work with Democrats to find a candidate for speaker, later saying the the report “mischaracterized his remarks” and that he was pro-McCarthy. So how effective his group will be in blocking the maniacs is questionable.

While McCarthy is trying to wrangle all that, McConnell has his own group of nihilists to fend off. He retained his leadership position in a secret ballot last week, with 10 members voting against him and one voting present, with Scott challenging. It’s been open warfare between McConnell and Scott and their allies for months now, each blaming the other for the fact that Republicans had such a poor showing in Senate races.

To be fair to McConnell (which tells you just how odious Scott is), there’s the fact that Scott has used his position at the NRSC for grift and is still doing it. His NRSC team just sent out another email ostensibly raising money for Herschel Walker in the Georgia runoff, but with 98% of the money going to the NRSC, 2% to “Team Rick Scott” and 2% to Walker. If the past is any guidance, a good portion of that NRSC money is going to go to Scott as well.

That fight is still on thanks to Tucker Carlson and Blake Masters, the failed Arizona GOP Senate candidate (who was viewed less favorably by voters than Roy Moore was in his failed race for the Senate in Alabama—after all the news reports that he creeped on teenaged girls when he was in his 30s). Masters blasted McConnell for his loss.

“You know what else is incompetent, Tucker? The establishment. The people who control the purse strings,” Masters said. “Had he chosen to spend money in Arizona, this race would be over. We’d be celebrating a Senate majority right now.”

As that charge results in even more national stories about the Republican civil war, more right-wing pundits take sides, raising the temperature even more.

With the Senate majority secured, Democrats are working hard to increase it by one and return Sen. Raphael Warnock in the Georgia runoff. They’re also enjoying the show. “My advice is to keep on doing what they are doing,” said Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who led Senate Democrats’ campaign committee to victory this cycle.

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