In Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, a posse of violent ne’er-do-wells forced by circumstance into a house together descend, through duplicity, avarice and lies, into bloody chaos which leaves everyone dead. The title is a fitting one for the eight Republicans who crossed party lines to vote with House Democrats, unanimous in their belief that they are better off without Kevin McCarthy as speaker. In doing so, they ensured the House is controlled by Democrats in all but name.
As the speaker race begins, the odds favor Steve Scalise or Jim Jordan — both more satisfying to the right wing than McCarthy, but far less capable of fundraising as he did to protect the tenuous hold of moderates in blue states. But no matter who replaces McCarthy, the center of gravity for Republican leadership in Washington that stood with House leadership for the past nine months is now in the Senate. With the upcoming elections likely to return Mitch McConnell to majority leader status, or pass the baton to one of the three Johns, it stands to be there for the foreseeable future.
That is not, to say the least, good for the next generation of conservatives.
As historically shocking events go, this one was absolutely predictable. From the moment that McCarthy gave way on the issue of vacating the chair, it was clear that the rules of the Republican Conference — which demand that a majority of the conference be agreed before such a motion is made — would do nothing to hold back someone as single-mindedly and personally opposed to McCarthy as Matt Gaetz.
As former House Speaker Newt Gingrich noted yesterday, in an op-ed calling for Gaetz and his compadres to be expelled from the conference:
Gaetz is violating the House Republican Conference rule that states the motion to vacate “should only be available with the agreement of the Republican Conference so as to not allow Democrats to choose the Speaker.” The agreement made when McCarthy became speaker doesn’t supersede the conference rules. Gaetz still needs a majority of the conference. Gaetz knows he can’t possibly get a majority of the House GOP conference to his side. He is simply violating the rules in the pursuit of personal attention and fundraising.
This is not about ideology. When McCarthy cut the deal that he did in January with members of the House Freedom Caucus, he did so by finding ways to work with some of the most hardline fiscal conservatives in the body. Chip Roy, Thomas Massie, Marjorie Taylor Greene and others all backed McCarthy yesterday because he had, in large part, given them what they wanted: the ability to craft the rules guiding the process and a much stronger voice in crafting legislation. For nine months, McCarthy effectively treated these ideological warriors as part of the team — a far cry from leadership’s past approach of crushing or sidelining them.
For the Hateful Eight, this wasn’t good enough. And since their demands were effectively impossible to achieve — in fact, they regularly worked to ensure they were impossible — they decided it was better to give the House over to Democrats now, rather than wait til next year’s elections. It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for them.