3 winners and 3 losers from the House speaker circus

“Johnson is a movement conservative close to the Christian right. He’s also a stalwart Trump ally who actively worked to help the former president try to overturn Joe Biden’s victories in key 2020 swing states — making Trump, who helped torch the chances of Johnson’s leading rival Tom Emmer on Tuesday, another winner.”

“After Johnson won the GOP conference’s speaker nomination Tuesday night, one reporter asked him about having led Trump’s challenges to the 2020 election results. The assembled GOP leadership team booed, with one member yelling “shut up!” Johnson demurred: “Next question.”

“January 2025 could be different. The House that meets to certify the presidential election results that month will be newly elected, but Johnson could well still be speaker. If so — and if there’s a similar dispute where Trump is denying a Biden victory — it’s far from clear what Johnson will do.
Generally, from November 2020 through January 2021, the Republican Party behaved terribly irresponsibly, but just enough Republicans in positions of power did the right thing — certifying the results at some political cost. Since then, critics of Trump’s attempt to seize power have largely been purged from the party, and election denial has been increasingly normalized. For instance, Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), an idiosyncratic conservative, said he initially wouldn’t support a speaker candidate who denied the election results — but he backed Johnson anyway.

Would a GOP-controlled House certify a Democratic victory in the 2024 presidential election? With Johnson in charge, that may have grown less likely — and that has ominous implications for the state of American democracy.”


Why the GOP Can’t Unite

““This is a political-leaning conference right now, not a policy-leaning conference,” Ryan told me. Which makes sense, he added, because “our party is a populist-leaning party right now, not a policy-leaning party.”
In this sense, there’s some logic to Jordan ascending to lead Republicans in the House, the body which best reflects the sentiments of the GOP’s Trumpified rank-and-file.

“He’s a very articulate fighter on TV, with the gavel,” Ryan said. “He is the star of the conservative media industrial complex, he is their darling.”

Yet as we spoke, Jordan had just seen 20 of his GOP colleagues oppose his candidacy on the House floor, a day before the tally would rise to 22.

“He is where the center of gravity is,” Ryan added of Jordan, “but I think, we’ll see what happens here, there’s just enough institutionalists around still that…”

I interrupted: “He can’t get quite get there.”

Which was a nicer way of saying what I was thinking: There are still enough antibodies resisting the virus.

However, if we’re being honest, in the House, and the GOP writ large, increasingly it’s Jordan who’s the body and the pre-Trump Republicans the virus.”


House GOP flirts with Jan. 6 extremism

“At times, GOP lawmakers insist they’re uninterested in relitigating an attack that is political poison for the party outside of deep-red areas. But at other times, some Republicans have stoked narratives that falsely pin blame for the attack on police, Democrats or far-left agitators — or downplay the violence at the Capitol. The latter approach has seen a noticeable uptick of late.
And it’s not just far-right conservatives who fall in that group — some House GOP leaders and key committee chiefs have shown they’re willing to flirt with the fringe without an outright embrace. Speaker Kevin McCarthy has shared security video of that day with far-right media figures who have minimized or fed inaccurate portrayals of the attack.

Yet they’re also batting down some of those same false conspiracy theories and preparing to focus on at least one area of bipartisan concern: Capitol security vulnerabilities, many of which remain unresolved since the attack. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who faced scrutiny from the Jan. 6 select committee for a Capitol complex tour he gave on Jan. 5, 2021, is warning allies against automatically accepting certain claims.”

The House Is About To Have 435 Members. That’s Pretty Rare.

“The last time the U.S. had a full House — with all 435 of its voting representatives seated — was nearly three and a half years ago. And even then, it wasn’t full for long. When Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy resigned on Sept. 23, 2019, to care for his newborn baby with a heart defect, he left a House that had had 435 members for all of six days. In the 1,261 days since, there’s been at least one empty seat in the House.”

Don’t Let the House Hunter Biden Investigation Become a Russiagate-Style Search for Election Excuses

“Republicans have long insisted that not only did Hunter use his father’s name to secure foreign business deals for himself but that Joe Biden was in on the game. There is evidence for the former, and not for the latter. Regardless, the first people lawmakers might want to question are those intimately involved with Hunter Biden’s business dealings, right?
Apparently not. First up, per a Politico report, are three former Twitter employees.

Comer has invited former Twitter Deputy General Counsel James Baker, former Global Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth, and former Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde to the hearing to testify about Twitter’s decision to temporarily block a New York Post story about Hunter Biden in 2020.

That decision was recently dissected at length in the Twitter Files, a series of reports based on internal documents that Twitter CEO Elon Musk has shared with a small group of journalists. The documents reveal Twitter executives engaged in ample deliberation and debate about how to handle the story, primed by warnings from the (Trump-era) Justice Department about the possibility of fake news being spread by foreign adversaries.

It’s pretty clear that Twitter’s decision to suppress the story—ultimately a wrong decision, albeit also a very short-lived one—was very much a product of people trying to avoid repeating the mistakes of 2016. Authorities were on high alert—perhaps to the point of paranoia—about foreign propaganda that might influence the 2020 electorate. And tech companies, having just lived through years of being excoriated for letting foreign propaganda spread in 2016, were extra sensitive to allegations that they might let it happen again.

But Republicans seem to desperately want there to be more to this story. For it to serve as a smoking gun against Joe Biden, tech companies, or both. For it to be a tidy explanation as to why Biden won in 2020.”

“Twitter made the wrong call with the story, yes. But it did so temporarily, with much deliberation, influenced by authorities in the Trump administration, and to the effect that the Hunter Biden story got even more attention. The idea that Joe Biden would have lost the election had this not happened is crazy. And the idea that Biden himself helped cover it up because he’s hiding something about his own business dealings lacks any evidence.

But these narratives are also very beneficial to Biden’s enemies. And Republicans seem determined to wring every last bit of political capital possible out of them.

Once again we’re reminded that the people in power—no matter which side that is—are more focused on making excuses for their own shortcomings and slinging mud at the other side than actually doing the hard work of becoming a faction more Americans can get behind.”

House GOP tempts fall government shutdown with longshot spending demands

“In addition to Republicans’ pledge to slice $130 billion from the $1.7 trillion government funding package that passed in December, conservatives want to take the process old-school. Rather than passing one massive bill, they’re calling for individual votes on the dozen appropriations bills that set annual budgets for different agencies, a more time-consuming but transparent procedure that recent Congresses have struggled to complete.
They’re also planning to allow an amendment free-for-all, which is all but certain to further drag out or trip things up.

Additionally, House Republicans say they’ll refuse to negotiate with the Senate until the upper chamber passes its own spending bills, which hasn’t happened in years. Typically, Senate appropriators have instead entered into bipartisan talks with their House counterparts, only burning valuable floor time on a package they’re certain would pass both chambers.

And GOP demands expand beyond funding the government. Republicans say they won’t back a debt limit increase unless they get their way on spending cuts or measures to reign in the ever-increasing $31 trillion debt. The timing of that could be tricky, however, as the Treasury Department could hit its credit card limit this summer, while federal cash expires on Sept. 30.

A debt ceiling hike will arguably make for a much bigger battle in Congress, leaving even less time and patience for bipartisan talks on funding the government.”

The GOP’s Current Plan To Cut Spending Is a Political Failure

“According to the Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl, the GOP plan so far is to cut $130 billion from discretionary appropriations. Unfortunately, the defense budget and veterans health funds are excluded from cuts, despite making up $993 billion out of $1,602 billion discretionary budget. As Riedl notes, their plan will require “freezing those two items and cutting everything else by 21% immediately.”
This maneuver guarantees political failure for the Republicans’ plan.”

“imposing cuts on only a small share of the discretionary budget excludes trillions of dollars from scrutiny and is a political nonstarter.”

“while limiting discretionary spending is a good start, fiscal sustainability requires that Congress also cut the mandatory side of the budget. Indeed, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—not defense or education—are still the chief drivers of our future debt, just as they have been in the past. Along with the interest the Treasury must pay on the debt, these three programs will be responsible for 86 percent of federal spending between 2008 and 2032, says Riedl. In other words, no level of discretionary spending cuts will ever be enough to control the upcoming debt explosion.”

McCarthy’s speaker chaos could make Democrats more powerful

“Given Republicans’ narrow 222-person majority, they can’t really pass much if they lose any more than five votes in their own conference. Since conservatives have been vocal about their commitment to blocking key bills, like an increase to the debt ceiling, in order to get the spending cuts they want, Republicans will likely need Democratic votes to keep essential government functions and services running if they want to do so.
Additionally, given the number of Freedom Caucus members added to the House Rules Committee, Democrats could theoretically join with the conservatives on the panel to block or slow bills favored by House GOP Leadership.

The situation gives Democrats more leverage to put forth their own demands, if Republican leadership is actually interested in getting anything done. Of course, there’s a high chance that they aren’t”

“In 2011 and 2014, Republican House Speaker John Boehner needed Democratic votes to approve spending bills to fund the government”

“McCarthy’s concessions included adding multiple members of the Freedom Caucus to the Rules Committee, which plays a key role in deciding what bills make it to the floor and what amendments get considered. Should three ultraconservative Republicans be added to that committee, something McCarthy agreed to, they’d be able to delay bills and push more extreme versions of policies.

That’s led some Democrats to worry these changes will empower Republicans’ conservative flank to use the panel for obstruction. “We have a small faction basically holding Congress hostage,” Scanlon says. “Many of the rules changes that are being proposed by this kind of extreme faction have the same goal.”

Rep. Norma Torres (D-CA), a member of the Rules Committee, notes that conservatives could gum up the process on bills by forcing debate on amendments, whether or not they are germane to the legislation at hand. “It’s impossible to legislate from that perspective,” she said.”