GOP centrists come under increased attacks from own party

The 13 House Republicans who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill are being taunted as traitors and threatened with primary challenges from far-right lawmakers for breaking party lines to help give President Biden a long-sought legislative victory.

The attacks come from fellow House Republicans, including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), who denounced them as “traitors” who “voted to help Biden screw America.” Both vowed to back primary challengers.

Greene tweeted out the office phone numbers of the 13 Republicans, whom she blasted for having “handed over their voting cards to Nancy Pelosi to pass Joe Biden’s Communist takeover of America via so-called infrastructure.”

That led to a flood of angry and at times threatening phone calls for the office of Rep. Fred Upton (Mich.), one of the 13 Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill.

A spokesman for Upton confirmed to The Hill that his office had received more than 1,000 calls since Greene tweeted out the phone number, with more than 90 percent estimated to be from people outside of the district.

Upton shared audio of one threatening message during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, in which a man called the Michigan Republican a “f—ing piece of shit traitor.” The man added: “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your f—ing family dies.”

“These are very disturbing adult language, to say the least, that truly is frightening and a real, real bad mark in terms of civility across the country as we’ve seen these issues like this jump,” Upton said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has not publicly commented on the threats received by Upton’s office. He has not publicly criticized the GOP members who voted for the infrastructure bill, which was also backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and 18 other Senate Republicans.

McCarthy is also taking heat for a photo-manipulated anime video posted by far-right Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), an ally of Greene’s, which depicted Gosar killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging swords at Biden. McCarthy at press time had also not commented on the Gosar video.

Several of the 13 Republicans represent competitive districts and have gambled that taking credit for helping enact new infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and broadband networks will pay off with their constituents.

But in the meantime, they’re facing intense backlash from the right for daring to break party lines in a way that also boosts Biden — whom a significant number of GOP voters don’t believe was legitimately elected due to former President Trump’s false claims about the election.

Many of the 13 Republicans also cast their votes before the bill clinched 218 votes on the House floor late Friday night, rather than forcing Democrats to round up enough votes on their own first. That gave Democrats some wiggle room for defections after a long day of infighting and enabled a handful of progressives to cast their votes against it in protest over party strategy.

Cawthorn pledged he would “primary the hell out of” any Republican who backed the infrastructure bill. And Greene not only called for defeating them in primaries, but also taking away their committee assignments.

Greene — who was booted from House committees earlier this year for embracing conspiracy theories and appearing to endorse violence against Democrats — went further in calling for similar treatment for Republicans who voted for the bill.

“ ‘Majority Makers’ just became Socialism Makers. There is only one cure. Remove them from committees. Stop helping them financially. They don’t deserve it and solidly proved it by delivering Biden’s agenda. Primary them & build a better party that serves America,” Greene tweeted.

Greene and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) have particularly targeted their ire toward Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

Katko, who represents a district that Biden won by nine points in 2020, called the bill “a once in a generation investment in our nation’s physical infrastructure” and “a win for Central New York.”

But Greene and Gaetz highlighted Katko’s additional votes this year joining with Democrats in support of impeaching Trump after Jan. 6, taking away Greene’s committee assignments, creating a bipartisan commission to investigate Jan. 6 and holding former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon in contempt of Congress as evidence of what they see as insufficient party loyalty.

“I think right away John Katko should be removed as the Republican lead on the Homeland Security Committee, and everyone else who voted for these bills,” Gaetz said Monday in an interview with Newsmax.

A spokesman for McCarthy didn’t return a request for comment on Tuesday on whether he backed the push from Greene and Gaetz.

But so far, House GOP leaders have opted against booting members from committees for breaking the party line in other ways this year. GOP Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) and Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) have not been stripped of their committee assignments after they accepted an invitation from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to serve on the select panel investigating Jan. 6, for instance.

Kinzinger, who is not running for reelection, also voted for the infrastructure bill.

House GOP leaders actively urged their rank and file to oppose the infrastructure bill, but taking committee assignments away from the 13 who voted for it would put them in the awkward position of punishing them for taking the same position as McConnell and the 18 other Senate Republicans who backed it in August. That group also includes Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), a close Trump ally.

McConnell this week praised the infrastructure bill as a “godsend” for his state because “we have a lot of infrastructure needs.”

The calls from the far-right to punish the Republicans who voted for the infrastructure bill came as Democrats urged GOP leaders to take action against Gosar.

“There was a time when making light of murdering a colleague would elicit unified outrage. But not in McCarthy’s GOP. In McCarthy’s GOP they want to punish members who voted for infrastructure. That’s right, infrastructure. But condoning violence — that’s A-OK,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Tuesday. “It’s sick.”

Kinzinger, who has grown increasingly critical of his party after he voted to impeach Trump this year, expressed pessimism that GOP leaders would condemn Gosar for promoting political violence.

“Of course @GOP and @GOPLeader can condemn this proactively (not some sidestepping comment when asked about it.). They won’t. The ‘arm-pit farting’ of our politics is why we are failing the people,” Kinzinger tweeted.

Tags Adam Kinzinger Adam Schiff Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Donald Trump Fred Upton Joe Biden John Katko Kevin McCarthy Lindsey Graham Liz Cheney Marjorie Taylor Greene Matt Gaetz Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Paul Gosar
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