December 21, 2022

Divided Republicans Snipe at Each Other

House Republicans squabble over Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker, and Senate Republicans divide over the massive $1.7T omnibus.

Weeks away from Republicans taking control of the House, a group of GOP lawmakers is proving itself to be quite the headache for party leadership. The herd of elephants has always been more like a herd of cats, but the current divisions are stark and troublesome.

In the House, the fight is over the leadership spot. Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) has long been the leading candidate for taking over the speakership, though a number of Republican lawmakers are withholding support in order to extract concessions from him.

Georgia firebrand Marjorie Taylor Greene recently weighed in on the impasse, blasting her GOP colleagues for “lying to the base.” Greene warned that her colleagues were “Risking the gavel & delaying everything just [because] they don’t like someone.” She called that “not only selfish, [but] incredibly reckless and dangerous.”

Greene added: “It’s time for my friends in the Never Kevin Caucus to stop lying to the base just [because] they don’t like Kevin McCarthy. They do not have a plan and there is no consensus candidate. Sabotaging the country for personal reasons is not brave or righteous, it’s selfish and foolish.”

It is indeed interesting to see disagreement over McCarthy’s leadership divide a number of MAGA Republicans. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz, who is normally one of Greene’s closest allies, has broken with her over McCarthy, who he sees as part of the Washington establishment problem. Another MAGA firebrand, Colorado’s Lauren Boebert, has also resisted supporting McCarthy, although she has not closed the door entirely.

If McCarthy wins the speakership but has to give up power to do it, that will not ultimately serve Republicans well. Nancy Pelosi had a way of unifying Democrats, but that task seems impossible with Republicans.

Meanwhile, Republicans have clashed over the handling of the Democrats’ $1.7 trillion omnibus bill. Officially, the legislation is bipartisan, but it is clearly much more of a win for the Democrats’ agenda than the Republicans’. Several Republican lawmakers have demanded to know why Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell effectively caved to the Democrats’ timeline. Good question.

Of course, that’s not how McConnell sees things. “We can pass this bill, give our service members and commanders the resources they need, flip the president’s broken budget request on its head and actually cut baseline, nondefense spending,” he argued, “or, we can fail to pass the bill and give our armed forces uncertainty while the Chinese Communist Party continues to pour money into new research and more weapons. This is not a close call.”

McCarthy clearly sees it the other way. In fact, he warned Senate Republicans, “When I’m Speaker, their bills will be dead on arrival in the House if this nearly $2T monstrosity is allowed to move forward over our objections and the will of the American people.” McCarthy was immediately accused of using the situation to ingratiate himself to those House Republicans who have yet to offer him their support.

Finally, many Republicans are simply fed up with the party divisions. “When you ignite all 50 Democrats and sharply divide Republicans,” Senator Mike Lee observed, “I don’t understand how that’s a big win for Republicans, especially right after we just had an election and control of the House has now shifted.” Lee, who opposes the omnibus, contended that congressional leaders “deliberately contrived this shutdown threat” and “are extorting us and the American people.”

Sometimes, it seems like all Republicans know how to do is snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The red wave didn’t pan out as many had hoped, but the GOP is going to have to figure out a way to get back on the same page.

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