If you missed any of the GOP’s streaming reality-TV show that ended Tuesday with Speaker-for-then Kevin McCarthy’s head rolling (figuratively, of course) on the House floor, don’t worry.
The main event is yet to come.
The chaos party in the House — which bounced its speaker for the first time in, well, forever — is promising to become the CHAOS PARTY now that all-caps Donald Trump has entered the fray.
Some House members — including, naturally, Marjorie Taylor Greene — had actually been suggesting that Trump could serve as a short-term speaker, maybe for as long as 90 days. Sadly, that idea fell to the wayside when it was revealed that, according to House GOP rules, you can’t operate as a member of party leadership if you’ve been indicted for a serious felony.
And as it happens, Trump, in this case, more than qualifies. They could have changed the rules for Trump, of course, but wouldn’t that be like rigging the election?
And so, having lost his shot at a gavel, Trump decided to ENDORSE his MAGA buddy, Rep. Jim Jordan, the hard-right GOP bomb thrower — or as former Speaker John Boehner once called him, “legislative terrorist” — to succeed McCarthy, saying, “He will be a GREAT Speaker of the House, & has my Complete & Total Endorsement!”
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Reportedly, Trump had planned to come to Washington on Tuesday — taking time from his busy campaign/courthouse/classified-secrets-leaking schedule to make this bombshell endorsement. But the news got out — what, you were expecting something different? — and Trump had to settle for a Truth Social post.
However Trump made his endorsement, it would still almost certainly lead to another bloody, drawn-out fight for the speaker’s job. You may remember it took McCarthy 15 humiliating rounds to finally cash in. I’m putting the over-under on this one at 25.
Jordan’s main rival is House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who once reportedly described himself as “like David Duke without the baggage.” Scalise, also a hard-right conservative, is considered the more moderate choice, which tells you something about the makeup of the Republican conference. As a key player in the leadership team, Scalise might be the logical person to succeed McCarthy, if, that is, McCarthy hadn’t just been tossed from his leadership post.
There are a few other possibilities, including the bow-tied acting speaker, Patrick McHenry, who made a great noise with his angry gavel-pounding ending to the session that upended McCarthy. And then, in his first move as acting speaker, he made even more noise by evicting Nancy Pelosi from her so-called bonus workspace in the Capitol building. I guess McHenry assumes pettiness is a pathway to making the speaker job permanent. Give me liberty or give me Pelosi’s office?
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McHenry, it is being said, could be a compromise candidate, but that would suggest that compromise is a possibility in the Republican House conference.
It’s not just Trump who has endorsed Jordan, by the way. Scalise may be the favorite, but Jordan has significant support, including from several of the eight Republicans who toppled McCarthy.
Jordan also received the not-at-all-surprising endorsement of Colorado’s own Lauren Boebert, who did surprise many of us by not joining Matt Gaetz and the others when they were taking down McCarthy, but instead voted to keep him as speaker.
Boebert, you’ll recall, was a leader in the fight to deny McCarthy the speaker’s job, and she had been a far-right McCarthy irritant ever since.
And, on the motion to vacate — meaning to kick McCarthy out — Boebert memorably voted “No, for now.” (OK, it’s not her most memorable recent act. And if you need a reminder, just tune in to any of the post-writers-strike, late-night talk shows, where all the hosts are still playing catch-up on “Beetlejuice.”)
What no-for-now meant, I guess, was that if McCarthy were knocked out, Boebert would be free to eventually get her own punches in. One guess as to why she voted for McCarthy is that she might need the Republican establishment on her side to defend the 3rd Congressional District seat in 2024 that she nearly lost in 2022.
As for supporting Jordan, Boebert has gone so far as to say that she would be willing to give up the House rule that a single member can call for a motion to vacate, saying it’s not needed since “Jim Jordan is absolutely trustworthy.” The one-member rule was, of course, the one that Boebert had pressed for and the one Gaetz used to, uh, vacate McCarthy.
Gaetz, meanwhile, has praised Jordan as his “mentor,” which should give anyone pause, but says he’d be happy with either Jordan or Scalise as speaker. I’m guessing Scalise wishes Gaetz had just endorsed Jordan and been done with it.
Anyone who follows Republican politics knows about Jordan. He was an original founder of the right-wing Freedom Caucus. He is among the far right’s leading performers, always prepared to offer up a rage-filled sound bite.
Lately, in his role as House Judiciary chair, he has been in the forefront of pushing to impeach Joe Biden despite the clear lack of evidence. He has also been busily trying to prove — without any success — that the Justice Department has been “weaponized” against Trump. It’s not only Hunter Biden he’s chasing, he also, uh, is investigating prosecutors who bring cases against Trump.
And we won’t even get into the Ohio State accusations, when he was assistant wrestling coach there.
Former Rep. Liz Cheney, who served on the House January 6 committee, said Jordan knew more about Trump’s plan for January 6 than anyone in the House. And that if he were elected speaker — which she said she doubts he will — “there would no longer be any possible way to argue that a group of elected Republicans could be counted on to defend the Constitution.”
Scalise has been diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer, but has returned to work in the House. It probably won’t be an issue. And, of course, he was seriously wounded in 2017 when a gunman began firing at members of a Republican congressional baseball team. So he does have a history of overcoming actual, rather than just political, adversity. He also has on his résumé the fact that he, along with Jordan and McCarthy and Boebert and 143 other Republicans, voted to refuse to certify rightful electors on January 6.
But can he get the 217 votes needed to become speaker? Could Jordan? Could anyone? And if no one can get the votes in the House where compromise goes to die, what happens next?
Since Democrats will all vote for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries for speaker — in a vote that is scheduled for Wednesday — that would mean that the winning GOP candidate could afford to lose no more than four party votes.
It could happen. But will it happen in time to stave off a possible government shutdown in six weeks? I don’t know. But I’m guessing — and the TV news guys are hoping — that, with chaos on the big screen, you won’t be able to turn away.
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