Ousting former Speaker Kevin McCarthy has accomplished what Rep. Matt Gaetz, co-conspirator Steve Bannon, and their House confederates likely intended when Gaetz kicked this off: deepening the divisions among Republicans and creating more chaos. Toss in Donald Trump’s endorsement of Rep. Jim Jordan as the next speaker, and things were getting lit.
Then Fox News stepped in, scheduling a nationally televised event next Monday evening with speaker candidates Jim Jordan and Steve Scalise (and Kevin Hern, if he decides to run). Fox News confirmed Punchbowl News’ scoop to USA Today, characterizing the event as a “joint interview” rather than a debate. Whatever it’s called, House Republicans are pissed about it. They’re not just pissed—they’re “infuriated.”
The GOP conference is scheduled to have its own forum on Tuesday, and Republicans are not at all happy that this “circus” is going to happen before their private meeting—and that the candidates agreed to it. “If both of them thought this was a good idea, then maybe they don’t have a pulse of the conference. I’m having serious problems,” Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida told CNN.
That pushback created more disarray. Jordan decided he had to try to reschedule either the GOP conference or the televised debate, CNN and Politico confirm. Scalise then put out the word that he wasn’t going to participate in the Fox News debate at all. So either the whole Republican conference has to change their weekend plans to be able to meet before Monday evening, or Fox News has to reschedule the event or cancel it altogether.
Meanwhile, Jordan is trying to convince fellow Republicans that he’s the guy who can “tell the country what we’re doing.” That’s going well so far.
While Jordan is scrambling to fix this Fox mess, Scalise is prepping to make his “I’m not dead yet” case. He appeared on “Fox and Friends” Friday morning, and said that his treatment for blood cancer is going “phenomenally well” and that he’s healthy as a horse, or something. “If the doctors didn’t sign off, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “They say you’re ready to go back in the fight. Look, I’ve been through tougher fights.” He has to make that case for himself because ghouls like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Gaetz keep bringing it up, and because “fresh blood” is one of the talking points that parts of the conference have been parroting.
While all that is going on, Republicans are also starting to squabble over some major rules changes. One, championed by the unlikely duo of “Problem Solver” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Freedom Caucus member Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, could delay the vote for speaker indefinitely. They want to temporarily change the GOP conference rules to ensure that their nominee has 218 votes within the conference before going to the floor for the speaker election. Republicans currently have 221 members in the House, and approximately 20 of them are nihilists. This could be a big fight.
Another group is trying to change the rules again on the motion to vacate, the procedure Gaetz triggered that led to McCarthy’s ouster. One part of the deal that McCarthy made back in January when desperately gathering the votes to become speaker was that just one House member could bring a motion to vacate. He agreed to take himself hostage with that one, and lost. Now McCarthy allies, including Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, want to change it. Graves says that many “great people that are in this conference … have said, ‘Hell no, I wouldn’t even consider that job, because it’s going to be a complete failure.’ And so that needs to be addressed.”
Changing that rule also needs 218 votes. According to Politico, Jordan has already said that he won’t advocate for the rule change unless 218 Republicans in the conference agree to do it, because he won’t go to Democrats for votes. Not that they’d be inclined to help save the next GOP speaker, anyway.
All this infighting and confusion could mean that there is no election for speaker next week. The plan was a conference Tuesday and floor votes Wednesday. Even without the Fox News confusion, that was ambitious. Now it looks increasingly unlikely.
Trump endorses Jordan
Speaker race preview: ‘Legislative terrorist’ Jordan vs. ‘David Duke without the baggage’ Scalise
Steve Bannon helped Gaetz oust McCarthy, but neither planned for the aftermath
Author: Joan McCarter