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McCarthy laments distractions from far-right members
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Friday that recent political distractions caused by a trio of conservative rabble-rousers - Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.) - are things that Republicans "would not want to deal with" and result in "problems" as his party tries to win back the majority in 2022.
A pair of related incidents consumed House Republicans this week, after Boebert suggested that progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), a refugee and one of just three Muslim Americans in Congress, could be a terrorist.
Those racist and Islamophobic remarks were condemned by fellow first-term Republican Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.) during a CNN appearance. The back-and-forth sparked more intraparty warfare in McCarthy's conference: Greene, a Boebert ally, took to Twitter and attacked Mace as "trash;" Mace responded in kind, calling Greene "batshit crazy."
The offensive comments and GOP infighting came just a couple weeks after Gosar was censured and booted off his committees for tweeting an anime video depicting himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Gosar, Greene and Boebert are all members of the House Freedom Caucus, which is aligned with former President Trump.
"It's things we would not want to deal with. ... Things that the American people want to focus on: stopping inflation, gas prices and others, and anything that deviates from that causes problems," McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol.
Pressed why he has not publicly condemned Boebert or taken away her committee assignments, McCarthy replied: "This party is for anyone and everyone who craves freedom and supports religious liberty."
He argued that Boebert had "apologized publicly and she apologized personally" with a phone call to Omar. Then he took aim at Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her leadership team, saying that they had not punished their own members who had made controversial comments.
"Someone on their side of the aisle said I work with the Ku Klux Klan, referring to Republicans," McCarthy said. Omar said "the only reason I support Israel is about the Benjamins. And I never got a public apology or phone call."
"I think when somebody does something wrong, they apologize. Lauren Boebert apologized publicly; she picked up the phone. It took a lot of effort ... In America, that's what we do, then we move on to the issues."
McCarthy has made clear he has no plans to strip Boebert of her committee assignments, as he did to then-Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) in 2019 after King said he saw nothing wrong with "white supremacy."
So Pelosi and the Democrats are wrestling with whether to hold a floor vote to punish Boebert - an act many Democrats believe would simply bail out McCarthy - or take up a broader resolution that condemns Islamophobia without naming names.
"Personally I feel there needs to be more heat on McCarthy; he skates every time," said one House Democrat.