The choose your own adventure surrounding House Republican leadership is leading to a predictable dead end. The approach House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has used to great effect to this point, achieving far more legislatively than he was expected to in a Speakership with a razor-thin majority, has been to let conservatives get a seat at the table to demand what they want, and work from there. The strength of that strategy was giving House conservatives buy-in on the negotiating process, thus using them as an ally, not an adversary. The weakness of that strategy? It doesn’t work when the conservatives can’t agree about what they want.
For the past week, Republican leadership tried to give conservatives an opportunity to pursue what they wanted on government spending, with key members Chip Roy and Scott Perry attempting to negotiate a deal. But while roughly half of the House Freedom Caucus wants to fight about spending, and the other half thinks they should fight on the border, they found they can’t really pass something that accomplishes both goals. The leadership now seems to be adopting a different strategy: they are pushing forward with votes they know they will lose instead of just pulling bills before they go down. The goal seems to be demonstrating to their conservative flank that the votes just aren’t there to achieve what they want, and that their lack of unification hurts any ability to find agreement.
In the immediate, expect a version of a continuing resolution with border-focused policy to go to the floor this week — which, again, is expected to fail. In the wake of that failure, House Republican leadership will in all likelihood turn to work with the waiting Democrats in a bipartisan can-kick. Even though McCarthy will show with the series of failed votes that he has no other option than to find votes across the aisle, he faces the prospect of an October spent getting repeatedly vacated by Representative Matt Gaetz, who just called the speaker a “misogynist” for criticizing Victoria Spartz.
Perhaps the most amusing story to come out of the week was the news that Representative Ralph Norman, a seventy-year-old congressman from South Carolina, accidentally voted for a CR he had committed to oppose in the House Rules Committee. His excuse: he was distracted, “asleep at the switch.” It might sound ridiculous to those outside Washington, but for people who pay attention to the way this House works, it absolutely tracks.
On our radar
THE GOP’S BLACK VOTE A recent slate of polls shows both former president Donald Trump and the Republican Party writ large enjoying historically high support from black and Hispanic voters. Aaron Blake at the Washington Post identifies an enthusiasm problem for Democrats among minority groups.
DRESS CODE BLUES All but three Republican Senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday urging him to reverse his decision to drop the Senate’s dress code for members. The letter said a lack of dress code “disrespects the institution we serve.”
GAETZ’S WARNING SHOT A reporter stumbled across a resolution authored by Representative Matt Gaetz to vacate Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a Capitol building bathroom on Tuesday. The piece of paper was conspicuously found folded neatly in half under a baby-changing table and next to a half-empty iced coffee, leading some to speculate that it was left behind intentionally.
Garland’s testy day on the Hill
Attorney General Merrick Garland got his much-anticipated grilling today from an energetic House Judiciary Committee hearing that was all about Hunter Biden.
It seemed Garland wasn’t prepared at all for questions Republicans were obviously going to ask him. In a telling instance, Representative Mike Johnson asked him if he’s ever spoken to anyone at the FBI headquarters about the investigation into the younger Biden. Garland responded, “I don’t recollect the answer to that” and “I don’t believe that I did.” During a break in the hearing, Johnson noted to me that he wishes he “could say I was surprised by AG Garland’s lack of transparency today, but this is what we’ve come to expect from him and his DOJ. His evasive tactics when faced with point-blank questions begins to shine light on why 65 percent of Americans don’t trust this DOJ.”
At one point during the hearing, Representative Jeff Van Drew and Garland were almost shouting at each other. Van Drew demanded answers on an FBI memo painting traditional Catholics as “violent extremists” as Garland repeatedly dodged the question.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats treated Garland with kid gloves, focusing on issues like Donald Trump and abortion (coincidentally two of the only issues they see as winners for the elder Biden in 2024).
Garland, who was confirmed on a bipartisan vote of 70-30, has a long way to go to restoring any trust within the GOP. Representative Darrell Issa, who’s been one of the attorney general’s fiercest critics, told me after the hearing that “what this Garland testimony revealed to us is that the attorney general realizes he is presiding over the Department of Justice with the most severe credibility crisis since Watergate.” To Issa, “the Hunter Biden slow walk and then attempted immunity deal have taken a toll that no part of this testimony made better.”
Johnson seconded these concerns to me. “It’s clear partisanship is the ruling power in the Biden Garland DOJ,” he lamented.
– Matthew Foldi
Non-binary Biden official parts with stolen women’s clothing
Gender-fluid and bald-headed Sam Brinton worked in the White House’s Office of Nuclear Energy until the world learned about the disgraced official’s favorite pastime: stealing luggage at airports. Biden’s White House apparently saw no red flags in Brinton’s eccentric style of dress and penchant for red lipstick, nor in his leadership position with an anti-Catholic group at the center of a recent LA Dodgers controversy. Months after news broke about Brinton’s luggage theft, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Police Department announced that it found and returned some of the stolen property to victim Asya Khamsin. Khamsin, a designer who caught Brinton wearing her clothing after losing her bag years ago, played an instrumental role in Brinton being charged with grand larceny. The items were recovered during a raid on Brinton’s home in May. An MWAA spokesperson said the case “is still under adjudication.”
– Juan P. Villasmil
Biden issues American Climate Corps executive order
President Joe Biden has decided that, come hell or high water — or “escalating natural disasters and sustained global warming” — he will force American taxpayers to foot the bill for what the AP is calling “a New Deal-style American Climate Corps.”
The White House announced today that Biden will sign an executive order to launch a workforce training program that will “focus on equity and environmental justice.” When Biden tried a similar move a year ago, House Whip Steve Scalise summed up most Republicans’ attitude, saying the plan would “[waste] billions of dollars in Green New Deal slush funds.”
The White House statement released today says, in part:
The American Climate Corps will mobilize a new, diverse generation of more than 20,000 Americans — putting them to work conserving and restoring our lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, deploying clean energy, implementing energy efficient technologies and advancing environmental justice, all while creating pathways to high-quality, good-paying clean energy and climate resilience jobs in the public and private sectors after they complete their paid training program.
– Teresa Mull
From the site
Roger Kimball: The Biden crime family is our own reality-TV mafia show
Ben Domenech: Donald Trump’s foolish abortion gamble
Charles Lipson: It’s time now for President Biden to grant RFK Jr. Secret Service protection