House Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy has reached that stage of a GOP-controlled session of Congress where he is simply perfecting the art of playing political Whac-A-Mole, nothing more, nothing less.
Whatever purported agenda the House Republicans were pursuing ended when McCarthy struck a deal with the White House to raise the debt ceiling that miraculously averted a catastrophic default. While the country no doubt benefited from that relatively reasonable outcome given McCarthy’s band of heretics, we will all pay the price for his betrayal of caucus extremists for the rest of his presidency.
The first bill expired in early June, when extremist House Republicans close the floor and McCarthy was forced into recess in the chamber for the better part of a week. Several weeks later, Florida Representative Anna Paulina Luna continued a censorship crusade against Rep. Adam Schiff of California over comments he made several years ago about Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. Luna originally included a $16 million fine in the measure, which he pushed through in the form of a privileged resolution to avoid going through committee and using the regular order. But when 20 vulnerable Republicans sided with House Democrats to introduce the resolution, McCarthy sprang into action, trying to convince Luna that this poor image of the GOP was only benefiting one person: Schiff, who ultimately raised over $8 million in second-quarter donations for his Senate bid. Luna withdrew the fine, McCarthy endorsed the measure, and the censure passed in a party-line vote, 213-209.
That same week, McCarthy ran the exact same drill with a privilege resolution pushed by Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado to impeach President Joe Biden: no investigation and no felonies, misdemeanors, or explicit violations of the Constitution. He just felt like it, so there.
McCarthy once again convinces this low-level Republican talent that his resolution will fail, embarrass the Republican majority, and be of great help to Biden. Instead, he agrees to refer the articles to the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees in exchange for bragging rights that she initiated impeachment proceedings.
But that’s what McCarthy exists for now: he’s a glorified, tie-wearing cat herder.
“The best thing to do in these situations is to mitigate the damage.” commented Annie Karni of the New York Times on The Daily podcast. “And he knows every day that his problems are not behind him and are probably only getting worse.”
McCarthy’s next challenge is to avoid a massive split within his caucus over which Republican hopeful to endorse in 2024. For now he has refused to endorse Trump—another slap in the face to the MAGA misfits who burn the House down rather than build bridges.
It’s a placeholder position that could give way quickly considering how quickly McCarthy backtracked on his recent observation that Trump might not be.”the strongestRepublican candidate in the Republican field.
Trump was infuriated by McCarthy’s disloyalty, and in an almost immediate cleaning interview with Breitbart, McCarthy claimed, “Trump is stronger today than he was in 2016.”
Sure, watching McCarthy squirm in the midst of MAGA’s death grip is entertaining. But the more McCarthy resists endorsing Trump, the greater the price we will pay. McCarthy owes his precious orator’s gavel to Trump, and when Trump wants something, he hangs McCarthy’s delinquency over his head like the Sword of Damocles.
And Trump will most likely extract the biggest pound of meat he can get from McCarthy, whether it be a massive escalation of the investigation into Biden’s son Hunter or a full-blown impeachment proceeding. One way or another, Trump will get his fair share.