GOP infighting just gets uglier
House Republicans can’t seem to stop fighting with each other, despite potentially being less than a year out from winning the majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
Just two weeks ago, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urged Republicans to stop attacking each other after 13 moderate GOP lawmakers were marked as traitors by some of their conservative colleagues over their votes for the bipartisan infrastructure bill championed by President Biden.
McCarthy, the odds-on favorite to be the next Speaker if the GOP does win back the House next year, said his conference should focus instead on their opposition to Democrats’ social spending and climate package.
Weeks later, conservative and ultraconservative lawmakers are again making headlines with schoolyard insults on Twitter.
The GOP drama on Tuesday was the nasty Twitter fight between Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), with Greene calling the swing-district lawmaker “trash” for condemning Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). Mace fired back by using emojis to label Greene as “batshit crazy.”
The battle between the two centered on Boebert, who herself was called “TRASH” days earlier by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the anti-Trump Republican from Illinois who has increasingly taken on the most far-right of his party. He was criticizing Boebert for invoking Islamophobic tropes by suggesting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) could be a terrorist.
If McCarthy does become Speaker, the infighting offers a preview of just how challenging his job could be — and of the difficulty a divided House GOP might have in governing. The more narrow the margin, the tougher McCarthy’s job likely would be.
McCarthy tends to prefer trying to smooth over problems within his conference behind the scenes; he doesn’t like publicly condemning fellow GOP lawmakers, which also risks alienating them as well as their allies.
The next Speaker will be chosen in part by an internal conference vote by whichever party wins the majority.
Amid the Twitter back-and-forth with Greene, Mace said that she spoke with McCarthy on Tuesday and discussed “solving problems not only in the conference, but for our country.”
McCarthy has been having a number of one-on-one calls.
He also phoned Boebert last week after a video showed her recalling her reaction upon seeing Omar while boarding a Capitol elevator: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.” Boebert added: “Oh, look, the ‘jihad squad’ decided to show up for work today.”
Earlier this month, McCarthy spoke with Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) about an edited anime video sent out by his Twitter account that showed Gosar killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
And in an attempt to further settle the Boebert controversy, McCarthy called House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for help in coordinating a direct conversation between Boebert and Omar, although the second-ranking Democrat said Tuesday that he warned McCarthy that he didn’t think it would be “productive.”
McCarthy’s behind-the-scenes strategy has had its limits, as GOP lawmakers he’s counseled have repeatedly either doubled down on the infighting or remained unrepentant.
Gosar eventually removed the violent anime video from Twitter, but later described it as having “self-censored.” Ultimately, it wasn’t enough to stop House Democrats — along with Kinzinger and Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), another Republican who’s repeatedly broken with the GOP over its continued embrace of former President Trump — from voting to censure Gosar and take away his committee assignments.
And hours after tweeting that she had a “good call” with McCarthy, Mace launched additional Twitter attacks on Greene by calling her “nuts” — with another emoji — and adding that she was “beyond disgusted.”
“Marjorie Taylor Greene is a liar. And I’m not going to tolerate lies, racism or bigotry, whether you are Republican or Democrat,” Mace added during a Tuesday interview on Neil Cavuto’s Fox Business show. “She’s crazy. She’s insane. She’s bad for the party. And I’m not going to put up with it.”
Boebert initially issued an apology “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar.” But when Boebert and Omar did connect over the phone on Monday, both lawmakers confirmed that it quickly went downhill.
In a video posted to Instagram recapping the conversation, Boebert again invoked an anti-Muslim trope by saying, “Make no mistake, I will continue to fearlessly put America first, never sympathizing with terrorists. Unfortunately, Ilhan can’t say the same thing.”
Rep. Tom Reed (N.Y.), one of the 13 House Republicans who came under fire for their infrastructure votes, said that GOP leaders should make more clear that rhetoric like Boebert’s is unacceptable.
“Well, I think when you’re in a position of leadership, you have to stand up. You have to deal with it. I appreciate the fact that Kevin called our colleague directly to discuss the matter with her. But at some point in time, you also have to stand up and just call it out for what it is. This type of rhetoric cannot be condoned. It cannot be upheld,” Reed said on CNN.
Yet alienating far-right members who are closely allied with Trump also carries risks for McCarthy.
Greene claimed on an episode of Rep. Matt Gaetz’s (R-Fla.) podcast last week that McCarthy “doesn’t have the full support to be Speaker” because “there’s many of us that are very unhappy about the failure to hold Republicans accountable, while conservatives like me, Paul Gosar and many others just constantly take the abuse by the Democrats.”
McCarthy’s Senate counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has taken the opposite tack and distanced himself from Trump since the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
That’s resulted in regular attacks from Trump against McConnell, who has tended not to fire back. Trump has called McConnell an “old crow” and said he is “getting beaten on every front by the Radical Left Democrats” since agreeing to a temporary debt limit extension in October.
Greene touted her ties to Trump on Tuesday, tweeting that she had a “great conversation” with him about Mace.
“Don’t look now, but it’s MTG unable to take the heat, running to the [principal]’s office to tattletale because she can’t stand on her own two feet,” Mace responded. “Bless her heart.”