The House GOP can’t even go on vacation without fighting

It wasn’t pretty—particularly on the House side—but Congress got the government funded, but the bruising battle to do that doesn’t end beleaguered House Speaker Mike Johnson’s headaches. In fact, it could put him in an even tougher position with his fractious caucus when they return from their two-week recess, on April 9. Hanging over him are his party’s very slim majority and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s threat to oust him if he brings a Ukraine aid bill to the floor for a vote.

Colorado GOP Rep. Ken Buck is gone as of Friday, and happy as a clam to be out of it. "No rearview mirror," Buck said in his exit interview on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. "Happy to move on." He added that leadership has “serious problems with setting priorities,” including the ongoing ridiculous impeachment efforts of President Joe Biden and a bunch of cabinet secretaries. “We have a very tragic circumstance in Ukraine. We have spiraling debt, all kinds of out-of-control problems, and we focus on messaging bills that get us nowhere,” he said.

Rep. Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, is hot on Buck’s heels. His surprise announcement Friday that he’s starting his retirement from Congress early, on April 19, will leave Johnson with only one vote to spare—and looking over his shoulder if he puts a Ukraine aid bill on the floor.

Greene has said such a bill would be her trigger to activate her motion to vacate the chair, which would force a vote on removing Johnson from the speakership. A few other Republicans, including Freedom Caucus Reps. Chip Roy of Texas and Ralph Norman of South Carolina, are playing coy. Just to rub Johnson’s nose in it a little more, Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie taunted Johnson with this X (formerly Twitter) poll:

Do you approve of the job Mike Johnson is doing as Speaker of the House?

— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) March 23, 2024

More than ever, Johnson is going to need Democratic votes to hang onto the speaker’s gavel and get anything accomplished. That basically puts Democrats in control of the Ukraine debate. It also puts Johnson in even more of a bind. Having to rely on Democrats for protection and to pass critical bills will create only more turmoil for him with his Republican detractors.

On top of all that, there are vacancies in top seats on committees. In another surprise announcement on Friday, Appropriations Committee Chair Kay Granger of Texas stepped down. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, currently the chair of the powerful Rules Committee, immediately announced he wanted the Appropriations job, and he’ll likely get it. 

Cole, an ally of the current leadership, could do both jobs but that would probably serve to further enrage the Freedom Caucus and their allies. Reps. Roy, Norman, and Massie are all on the Rules Committee—the deciding voting bloc that has proven to be a massive headache for Johnson already. They could raise hell and demand that another one of their own get the chairman’s seat, another brewing flashpoint for Johnson.

All this while Johnson has to worry about Buck’s parting shot. He warned in an interview with Axios, on March 12, “I think it's the next three people that leave that they're going to be worried about.” One of them—Gallagher—is on his way out, and all the turmoil ahead makes Buck’s prediction even more likely.


Another resignation means the House GOP's margin for error will shrink even faster

Marjorie Taylor Greene threatens to oust new House speaker for ... reasons

With vacations on the line, House finally manages to fund the government

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Morning Digest: North Dakota is the latest GOP-run state to treat the Voting Rights Act as optional

The Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, and Stephen Wolf, with additional contributions from the Daily Kos Elections team.

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Leading Off

ND Redistricting: Federal judges keep finding that Republican-drawn election maps violate the Voting Rights Act—and Republican lawmakers keep defying court orders to remedy them. The latest to do so just this year is North Dakota, which recently saw two legislative districts struck down for undermining the rights of Native American voters.

  • "No way" to comply on time. A month ago, a judge directed the GOP-run legislature to come up with a new map by Friday. But a top Republican said lawmakers wouldn't meet that deadline, even though only a handful of districts need to be adjusted.
  • The third time is no charm. Earlier this year, Alabama Republicans outright refused to draw a second Black congressional district, and just this month, Georgia Republicans dismantled a diverse House seat that had elected a Black Democrat even though a judge expressly warned them not to.
  • A ticking time bomb. North Dakota Republicans are appealing, and they're putting forth an extremely dangerous argument that wouldn't just upend their case but could shred what remains of the VRA.

Read more on this pattern of GOP intransigence, including how a Republican president could end all enforcement of the Voting Rights Act if North Dakota's appeal succeeds.


NJ-Sen: Rep. Andy Kim is out with a new poll from Breakthrough Campaigns that shows him beating former financier Tammy Murphy 45-22 in the June Democratic primary, with indicted Sen. Bob Menendez clocking in at just 6%. A mid-November Kim internal from another firm, Public Policy Polling, showed him leading New Jersey's first lady 40-21, with 5% going to the incumbent. Neither Murphy nor Menendez have released their own numbers.

Murphy, as we've written before, will still be hard to beat because she's poised to win the "county line" in several large counties, which ensures her an advantageous place on the ballot. (This is also sometimes called the "organizational line.") The New Jersey Globe's Joey Fox is out with a thorough county-by-county look at the battle for the organizational line, and he writes that the process can vary quite a bit.

In the state's most populous county, Bergen, Fox writes that chairman Paul Juliano almost always gets to decide who gets the line, and his support for Murphy means "that’s probably the end of the story for Kim." It's a similar state of affairs in the three next largest counties―Middlesex, Essex, and Hudson―where party leaders have made it clear that Murphy is their choice.

However, things aren't as clear in Ocean County, a longtime conservative bastion that nonetheless has a large number of Democratic primary voters. Kim represented about half of the county under the last map, and Fox says many local Democrats remain "hugely loyal" to him. He adds that, while Murphy could make a play for the line here, she'll likely face a tough task.

Over to the north in Hunterdon County, meanwhile, Fox says that the organization line will be decided by a "genuinely open convention with little intervention from party leaders." You can find out a lot more in the Globe about the state of play across the state.

OH-Sen: Donald Trump endorsed rich guy Bernie Moreno on Tuesday for the March GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown even though a poll released the previous day put Moreno in third place.

SurveyUSA, working on behalf of the Center For Election Science, which promotes approval voting, showed Secretary of State Frank LaRose leading state Sen. Matt Dolan 33-18, with Moreno at 12%. Morero recently publicized a pair of internals giving him a small edge over LaRose, with Dolan a close third.

Texas: Filing closed Dec. 11 for Texas' March 5 primary, though there's a quirk: Candidates file with their respective political parties, which had an additional five days to send final lists to the secretary of state. That means we can now take a comprehensive look at who is running in the major contests.

Texas may be the second-largest state in the union, but as far as House races are concerned, most of the action will be confined to the primaries (and, in contests where no candidate takes a majority, May 28 runoffs). That's because Republicans enacted a very precise defensive gerrymander following the most recent census, opting to make competitive GOP-held districts safely red rather than aim for further gains by targeting Democratic seats.

You'll also want to bookmark our calendar of every filing deadline, primary, and runoff for the 2024 elections. One person we're very sure does not use our calendar is Donald Trump, who on Monday night called for someone to challenge GOP Rep. Chip Roy for renomination in the 21st District. "If interested, let me know!!!" Trump wrote a week after it was too late for anyone to take him up on his offer. Roy, who appears to have pissed off his party's supreme leader by campaigning with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, is unopposed in March.

TX-Sen: Ten Democrats have filed to take on Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, though Rep. Colin Allred ended September with a huge financial advantage over the entire primary field. However, a new survey from YouGov on behalf of the University of Texas and Texas Politics Project finds that many primary voters have yet to make up their minds with about two-and-a-half months to go.

Allred leads state Sen. Roland Gutierrez 28-7, who is the only other Democrat who had at least a six-figure war chest at the end of the third quarter. Two other notable options, state Rep. Carl Sherman and former Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez, were at just 2% each. A 38% plurality volunteered they "haven't thought about it enough to have an opinion," while another 10% answered "don't know." Spending has yet to begin in earnest, however, so this state of affairs should soon change.


AK-AL: Businessman Nick Begich has publicized an internal from Remington Research that shows him outpacing his fellow Republican, Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, in the August top-four primary, though he notably did not include numbers simulating how he'd do in an instant-runoff race against Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola. The congresswoman takes first with 42% as Begich leads Dahlstrom 28-9 for second, with another 7% going to Libertarian Chris Bye, who ran in 2022 along with Begich. All of these contenders would advance to the November general election if these results held.

CA-20: GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday submitted his resignation letter to the House, and his departure will take effect Dec. 31. It remains to be seen if Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom will schedule a special election to succeed the former speaker; the top-two primary for a full two-year term will take place March 5.

NY-26: Reporter Robert J. McCarthy writes in WKBW that Erie County Legislator Jeanne Vinal is considering competing in the unscheduled special election to replace outgoing Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins, while an unnamed source says that Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown will decide early next year.

These two Democrats' deliberations may not matter much, though, because the person who may single-handedly get to pick the party's nominee for the special seems happy with someone else. Erie County Democratic chair Jeremy Zellner tells McCarthy that the one major declared candidate, state Sen. Tim Kennedy, is "far ahead" of Brown and Vinal in organizing a campaign. "I am very impressed at this point in what he has put together in fundraising and forming a team," Zellner said, adding, "And whoever does this has to be ready."

OH-02: State Sen. Shane Wilkin announced Tuesday that he was joining the March GOP primary to replace retiring Republican Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a declaration that came one day before the filing deadline. Wilkin already represents about a third of this safely red southern Ohio seat.

OH-15: reports that Democratic state Rep. Adam Miller last week filed FEC paperwork for a bid against Republican Rep. Mike Carey. Donald Trump took this seat in the southwestern Columbus area 53-46 in 2020.

TX-03: Freshman Rep. Keith Self faces a GOP primary rematch against businesswoman Suzanne Harp, whom he outpaced in a truly strange 2022 contest. Harp, though, finished September with less than $5,000 in the bank, so she's unlikely to be much of a threat. Three other Republicans are also running for this Plano-based seat that Donald Trump took 56-42.

TX-04: GOP Rep. Pat Fallon is running for reelection after waging a bizarre one-day campaign to return to the state Senate, but he seems to be in for a soft landing. Fallon faces just one little-known primary foe in a safely red seat based in the northeastern Dallas exurbs.

TX-07: Democratic Rep. Lizzie Fletcher's only intraparty foe in this safely blue seat is Pervez Agwan, a renewable energy developer whose challenge from the left has been overshadowed in recent weeks by sexual harassment allegations.

The Houston Landing reported this month that one of Agwan's former staffers is suing him for allegedly trying to kiss her; the candidate responded by insinuating that the hawkish pro-Israel group AIPAC was involved in the lawsuit, but he did not produce any evidence to back it up his claim. The New Republic later reported that 11 staffers resigned in October from Agwan's campaign, which it described as an environment "where multiple women faced frequent sexual harassment from senior staff."

TX-12: Longtime Rep. Kay Granger is retiring from this conservative seat in western Fort Worth and its western suburbs, and five fellow Republicans are competing to succeed her. The early frontrunner is state House Republican Caucus Chair Craig Goldman, who has the support of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Another name to watch is businessman John O'Shea, who began running well before Granger announced her departure in November. However, while O'Shea has the support of Attorney General Ken Paxton, whom Goldman voted to impeach earlier this year, he ended the third quarter with a mere $20,000 in the bank.

Also in the running is businesswoman Shellie Gardner, the self-proclaimed "Queen of Christmas Lights." (Gardner says her business has spent nearly two decades "supplying Christmas lights across the country, including the United States Capitol Christmas Tree.") Two other lesser-known Republicans round out the field.

TX-15: Freshman GOP Rep. Monica De La Cruz faces a rematch against businesswoman Michelle Vallejo, whom she beat 53-45 last year after major Democratic groups spent almost nothing on the race. Donald Trump won this gerrymandered seat in the Rio Grande Valley 51-48 in 2020. The incumbent ended September with a huge $1.4 million to $184,000 cash on hand lead.

Vallejo herself drew a familiar intra-party opponent on the final day of filing from attorney John Villarreal Rigney. Vallejo edged out Rigney 20-19 for second place in the 2022 primary, while Army veteran Ruben Ramirez took first with 28%, though Vallejo went on to narrowly beat Ramirez in the runoff.

TX-18: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee announced she would seek a 16th term just two days after she was blown out by state Sen. John Whitmire, a fellow Democrat, in Houston's mayoral race, but she faces a challenging renomination fight in this safely blue seat.

Former Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, who once was a Jackson Lee intern, began campaigning after the congresswoman kicked off her bid for mayor and pledged to stay in the race even if the incumbent ultimately were to run for reelection—a promise she's kept. Edwards finished September with a hefty $829,000 banked, around four times as much as Jackson Lee reported. A third candidate named Rob Slater is also in, and his presence could prevent either Jackson Lee or Edwards from claiming a majority.

TX-23: GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales faces four primary foes in a sprawling West Texas seat that went 53-46 for Trump, one of whom has attracted some attention. Two Democrats are also running, though neither has earned much notice.

Gunmaker Brandon Herrera, who has over 3 million subscribers on his "The AK Guy" YouTube channel, finished September with $240,000 in the bank, which was far more than any of Gonzales' other intra-party challengers. Those hopefuls include former Immigration and Customs Enforcement official Victor Avila, Medina County GOP Chair Julie Clark, and Frank Lopez, who claimed 5% as an independent in last year's general election.

Gonzales infuriated hardliners by confirming Joe Biden's victory in the hours after the Jan. 6 attack and later supporting gun safety legislation after the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, which took place in his district. The state GOP responded to his apostasies in March by censuring him, a move that bars him from receiving party help until after any runoffs take place. Gonzales may not care, though, since he ended the third quarter with $1.7 million to spend.

TX-26: Rep. Michael Burgess announced his retirement shortly before Thanksgiving, and 11 fellow Republicans want to replace him in a safely red seat located in the northern Fort Worth suburbs and exurbs.

Donald Trump is supporting far-right media figure Brandon Gill, who is the son-in-law of MAGA toady Dinesh D'Souza. Gill also recently earned the backing of the like-minded House Freedom Caucus, which is capable of spending serious money in primaries.

Southlake Mayor John Huffman, meanwhile, picked up the support of 24th District Rep. Beth Van Duyne, who serves a neighboring seat. And in a blast from the past, former Denton County Judge Scott Armey is also in the running, more than two decades after losing a nasty 2002 runoff to Burgess. (Armey is the son of former Majority Leader Dick Armey, who was Burgess' immediate predecessor.)

Also in the running is Luisa Del Rosal, who previously served as chief of staff to 23rd District Rep. Tony Gonzales. The fourth quarter fundraising numbers, which are due at the end of January, will provide clues as to whether any of the other seven Republicans are capable of waging a serious effort.

TX-28: Rep. Henry Cuellar, who is one of the most conservative Democrats in the House, does not face any intraparty opposition this year, following narrow back-to-back wins against progressive Jessica Cisneros. Joe Biden carried this seat, which includes Laredo and the eastern San Antonio suburbs, 53-46.

Cuellar turned back a well-funded general election rival by a comfortable 57-43 margin in 2022, so it remains to be seen if any of his four Republican foes are capable of giving him a scare this time. The candidate who has attracted the most attention so far is Jose Sanz, who is a former Cuellar staffer. Not all the attention has been welcome, though, as the Texas Tribune reported in October that the Republican was arrested for throwing a chair at his sister in 2021; the case was eventually dismissed after Sanz performed community service and attended batterer intervention classes.

TX-32: Ten Democrats are competing to succeed Senate candidate Colin Allred in a diverse northern Dallas constituency that Republicans made safely blue in order to protect GOP incumbents elsewhere in the area.

The two early frontrunners appear to be state Rep. Julie Johnson, whose 2018 victory made her the first Texas legislator with a same-sex spouse, and Brian Williams, the trauma surgeon who attracted national attention in 2016 after he treated Dallas police officers wounded by a sniper. Williams finished September with a $525,000 to $404,000 cash lead over Johnson; the only other Democrat with a six-figure campaign account was Raja Chaudhry, who owns a charter bus company and self-funded his entire $266,000 war chest.

Also in the running are Alex Cornwallis, who was the party's 2022 nominee for a seat on the state Board of Education; former Dallas City Council member Kevin Felder; and civil rights attorney Justin Moore.

TX-34: Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez is in for a rematch against former GOP Rep. Mayra Flores, whom he convincingly beat 53-44 in an unusual incumbent vs. incumbent contest last year. Gonzalez finished September with a $944,000 to $230,000 advantage in cash on hand.

Three other Republicans are also running, including wealthy perennial candidate Mauro Garza, but none of them appear to pose much of a threat to Flores. Joe Biden won this seat in the eastern Rio Grande Valley 57-42.


OH Supreme Court: The state GOP announced Tuesday that appointed Justice Joe Deters will take on Democratic colleague Melody Stewart for a full six-year term. Deters previously said he would challenge either Stewart or Democratic Justice Michael Donnelly rather than run for the remaining two years of the term of the Republican he replaced, Sharon Kennedy. (Kennedy won a promotion from associate justice to chief justice last year as part of a sweep by Republican hardliners after Republicans enacted a law adding party labels to the ballot.)

TX Supreme Court: Partisan control of Texas' all-Republican, nine-member Supreme Court isn't at stake, but progressives are hoping that the trio of justices up in 2024 will pay a price for their unanimous ruling rejecting Kate Cox's petition for an emergency abortion. Cox, who said her fetus suffered from fatal abnormalities and posed a risk to her own health, left the state to undergo the procedure in a case that continues to attract national attention.

Each of the three Republicans faces at least one Democratic foe in their respective statewide race. Justice John Devine is being challenged by Harris County District Judge Christine Weems, who narrowly won reelection last year in Texas' largest county. Two pairs of Democrats, meanwhile, are competing to take on each of the other incumbents.

Going up against Justice Jimmy Blacklock are Harris County District Judge DaSean Jones, who last year survived an extremely tight reelection contest, and attorney Randy Sarosdy. And in the race to unseat Justice Jane Bland are Court of Appeals Judge Bonnie Lee Goldstein, who prevailed in a close 2020 race in the Dallas area, and Judge Joe Pool, who has run for the Supreme Court in the past as a Republican but won a local judgeship last year in Hays County as a Democrat.

Grab Bag

Where Are They Now?: The U.S. Senate confirmed former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on Monday night as secretary of the Social Security Administration. The Democrat will take over from acting secretary Kilolo Kijakazi, who has served since July of 2021.

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Disarray alert: House Republicans struggle with slim majority and chaos

With the exit of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the ejection of George Santos, and the impending resignation of Rep. Bill Johnson, House Republicans' bare majority is getting delectably precarious.

Daily Kos Elections political director David Nir games it all out, concluding that Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson will likely end up having a two-vote margin of error on any given measure.

Wherever the numbers end up, Republicans' exceedingly thin majority throughout the 118th Congress has proven to be a blessing in disguise, despite Democrats' failure to keep the majority last cycle. Rarely, if ever, has America seen a more pathetic display of governance than that offered by House Republicans this Congress. The chaos of multiple leadership battles amid the daily display of internecine warfare within the GOP caucus has been both instructive for voters and good for America heading into, yet again, the most consequential election of our lifetimes.

As former Rep. Liz Cheney bluntly noted this week, “A vote for Donald Trump may mean the last election that you ever get to vote in. ... People have to recognize that a vote for Donald Trump is a vote against the Constitution.”

Liz Cheney: “A vote for Donald Trump may mean the last election that you ever get to vote in...People have to recognize that a vote for Donald Trump is a vote against the Constitution.”

— Republican Accountability (@AccountableGOP) December 4, 2023

Cheney also called the prospect of Mike Johnson still being speaker in 2025 "terrifying" in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow.

One of the reasons the race for control of the House is so critical is because it's the 119th Congress that will certify the 2024 election, and House Democrats can serve as a backstop to any Republican election-stealing efforts if Democrats control the chamber.

To the benefit of the pro-democracy side, House Republicans have revealed themselves as completely incapable of leading anything. The message appears to be sinking in, based on Navigator Research polling of roughly 60 battleground districts that will decide control of the House in next year's elections, with nearly 7 in 10 respondents recently saying Republicans have prioritized "the wrong things."

Last month, pro-Trump Rep. Chip Roy of Texas summed up House Republican rule nicely.

“Explain to me one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done," Roy said during a floor speech.

Last week, Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries happily riffed off Roy's rant in a press conference during the debate over expelling Santos from his seat.

"House Republicans have now been in the majority for a little under a year—they have nothing to show the American people that they have accomplished.," Jeffries said, mentioning Roy's assertion. "Nothing to meet the needs of the American people," he continued.

“House Republicans have now been in the majority for a little under a year. They have nothing to show the American people that they have accomplished … Don’t take my word for it. Just ask Chip Roy.” — Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries slams House GOP

— The Recount (@therecount) November 30, 2023

Fortunately for Democrats, that dynamic won't be changing anytime soon. House Republicans’ next debacle is already in process, with Johnson preparing to hold a vote as soon as next week on initiating a formal impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

Not only will it not be popular with voters, it's the perfect way for House Republicans to kick off 2024

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The honeymoon is ending for Mike Johnson

House Republicans got rid of one speaker (with Democratic help) and then ran through most of their available candidates before successfully replacing him. They probably don’t want to do that again, at least until the memory fades a little, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop being fractured, ego-driven monsters whose go-to strategy is legislative vandalism. All of which is to say, current Speaker Mike Johnson came in with a warm glow of giddy Republican approval around him, but he’s already taking some pretty harsh criticism.

“He continues to play games,” Rep. Max Miller told Politico. “We are talking about a man [who] 30 days ago said that he was an anti-CR guy. We are talking about a man 30 days ago that was anti-Ukraine funding. ... It shows me he was never really morally convicted in his positions to begin with.”

Miller was an ally of ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy, so he may not have been inclined to give Johnson as much benefit of the doubt as some. But going on the record to call a speaker from your own party a “joke” whose strategic decisions and shifting positions have been “disgusting,” “fucking dumb,” and “a slap in the face to every Jew” is an unusual move. It suggests that Miller isn’t worried about retaliation.

Rep. Andy Biggs was one of the eight Republicans who voted to boot McCarthy. He is, like Johnson, on the far right of the House Republican conference. Talking to Politico, he rated Johnson in grade-school report card terms as “needing improvement” and “unsatisfactory results.”

Rep. Chip Roy, also on the far right, rated Johnson’s performance as “plummeting.”

Johnson continues to have allies, and many on the far right of House Republicans continue to see him as one of their own. There’s no talk (yet) of replacing him, and he’s shoring himself up through his continuing support for impeaching President Joe Biden. But it’s significant that the biggest thing Johnson did to anger his fellow Republicans is … try to keep the government open for a few more months. The Freedom Caucus has grudgingly conceded they need to go along with the basic effort to keep the government from shutting down, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it, or with the guy who got them here.

Right now, Johnson is trying to walk the line between extreme enough to keep the Freedom Caucus and its ilk happy but not so overtly extreme that he completely blows up Republican chances next November. He’s getting away with it, but like every other recent Republican speaker, it’s clear that he’s not leading his party so much as trying to thread one needle after another without stumbling into a full-on rebellion. And many members of his party continue on unchanged by the experience of McCarthy’s ouster and the ensuing chaos. Their egos and determination to get attention by causing trouble will never take a rest.

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House Freedom Caucus plans to shut down the government, blame it on the Senate

In 15 days, funding for all federal government operations will expire, barring a miracle (or House Speaker Kevin McCarthy having a personality transplant that turns him into a competent leader, which puts us back in miracle territory). A guy who lets people like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz pressure him into trying to impeach President Joe Biden based on the hallucinations of Rudy Giuliani isn’t likely to transform into a competent strategist.

The House returned from its six-week August recess Tuesday afternoon ready to do one of the easiest things Congress ever has to accomplish: spending a lot of money on the Pentagon. They failed—massively—as the extremist zealots refused to let the bill come to the floor. They didn’t do it because they’re opposed to the bill. They did it because they can, as a power flex.

No one in the House seems capable of coming up with a plan to stop them. “It’s stupid,” Idaho GOP Rep. Mike Simpson complained to Politico. “We’ve been seeing this coming for the last three or four months. I just didn’t think we were dumb enough to get there,” he said. Simpson should know better, coming from Idaho of all places, the sinkhole of GOP stupidity.

Another senior GOP member told Semafor that what happened with the “Five Families” in the “Godfather” movies is coming. “The whole family kills each other,” they said. “I think we’re close to that right now. We are in maybe the Godfather II stage.” The member is probably referring to the fact that GOP leadership in the House decided to emulate “The Godfather” by calling the various factions in the House the “Five Families.” For real. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies.

Two of those five are working on a supposed solution. A few members of both the Main Street Caucus, made up of supposed moderates, and the Freedom Caucus started meeting Wednesday to hatch some sort of stopgap funding plan, including spending cuts and border security funding.

Since Freedom Caucus guy Chip Roy of Texas is one of the negotiators, don’t expect it to work. What he’s in it for is a shutdown that they can blame on the Senate. He admitted it.

SHUTDOWN: @chiproytx says at Family Research Council he views a shutdown as inevitable because of Senate intransigence. He says GOP uniting around push for border policy changes as reason for fight

— Erik Wasson (@elwasson) September 15, 2023

The Senate will not accept a stopgap bill or a continuing resolution that slashes funding. For one thing, it’s called a continuing resolution because what it does is continue current funding. Roy knows that. His whole group knows that. A shutdown is exactly what the Freedom Caucus wants, for whatever reason.

“We’re going to have a shutdown, it’s just a matter of how long,” GOP @RepRalphNorman says. “We believe in what we are doing. The jury will be the country. And the jury is fed up with reckless spending.”

— Ben Siegel (@bensiegel) September 14, 2023

The “jury” does not want that. Seventy-one percent of Republicans “believe a government shutdown this fall would hurt the economy,” according to the latest polling from Navigator Research. Other Republicans understand that. “Have we ever not got blamed for a shutdown? ... I’m worried about the basic functions of government,” said Republican Rep. Kelly Armstrong of South Dakota.

Making matters even worse for McCarthy, he lost another vote Friday when Rep. Chris Stewart’s planned resignation was supposed to take effect. That leaves just a four-vote margin for McCarthy.

The glaring solution—and the inevitable one—is reaching out and compromising for Democratic votes. It’s the only way this gets solved. But at this point, it’s going to take Republicans reaping the disaster of a shutdown to force them to do it.

Sign the petition: Denounce MAGA GOP's baseless impeachment inquiry against Biden


Ron Johnson derails months of bipartisan Senate work on spending bills

House hardliners brag about 'chaos' as government shutdown looms

What did McCarthy gain by caving on impeachment? Nothing

What do you do if you're associated with one of the biggest election fraud scandals in recent memory? If you're Republican Mark Harris, you try running for office again! On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we revisit the absolutely wild story of Harris' 2018 campaign for Congress, when one of his consultants orchestrated a conspiracy to illegally collect blank absentee ballots from voters and then had his team fill them out before "casting" them. Officials wound up tossing the results of this almost-stolen election, but now Harris is back with a new bid for the House—and he won't shut up about his last race, even blaming Democrats for the debacle.

What did McCarthy gain by caving on impeachment? Nothing

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy just set himself up for a game of government shutdown Whac-A-Mole. He gave in to the loudest voices—well, two voices mostly: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s and Matt Gaetz’s—and agreed to open an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, all based on nonsense and lies. Just about the only thing McCarthy achieved by agreeing to this was demonstrating yet again that he’ll fold to the extremists every time.

He also opened the floodgates for every other faction in the Republican conference to make demands.

Gaetz did not back down once McCarthy agreed to impeachment. On the contrary: He attacked McCarthy, promising that he’d move to oust the speaker if McCarthy didn’t start fulfilling a bunch of secret promises he allegedly made back in January, during his ego-bruising fight to win the speaker’s gavel.

Then there is the Freedom Caucus. On the heels of McCarthy’s announcement, they held a press conference to reiterate that no way, no how are they going to allow the government to be funded.

McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry hasn’t swayed the Freedom Caucus towards funding the government

— Acyn (@Acyn) September 12, 2023

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“Enough!” shouted a very worked up Rep. Chip Roy. “I will not continue to fund a government at war with the American people. We are here to change it. It is time to end it and I’m proud to stand with these patriots to do that.” What is the government supposedly warring with the people about? Who knows what Roy is ranting about this time. Maybe immigration, or the COVID vaccine, or maybe aid to Ukraine. He’s just mad.

How is McCarthy going to deal with that? With a margin of just five Republican votes to spare, he clearly isn’t going to be able to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government running. He’s going to need Democratic votes. Now that he’s decided to ratchet up the partisanship with a bogus impeachment inquiry, House Democrats sure aren’t going to want to help him out. He isolated himself further from Biden and Senate Democrats, the very people who can bail him out with an agreement.

There are just 11 legislative days before funding runs out, and as of now, McCarthy is on his own. On the Senate side, Republicans are aligning with the Democrats to avert a shutdown. The majority of House Republicans probably don’t want a shutdown, but right now they’re cowering and staying out of it.

While McCarthy is bumbling his way toward this disaster, federal government officials are being forced to spend a lot of time—and time is money!—going through the process of figuring out how to shut agencies down, who to furlough, and how to keep necessary stuff running. That means hundreds of thousands of federal workers are once again on tenterhooks, not knowing if they’ll be getting a paycheck next month.

The weakest speaker in recent memory is on a path to prove he’s also the most destructive one, just by virtue of his own incompetence.


McCarthy announces formal impeachment inquiry, bypassing House vote

Greene throws tantrum over Gaetz stealing her impeachment thunder

McCarthy thinks impeachment inquiry rules should apply to everyone but him

Why does it seem like Republicans have such a hard time recruiting Senate candidates who actually live in the states they want to run in? We're discussing this strange but persistent phenomenon on this week's edition of "The Downballot." The latest example is former Michigan Rep. Mike Rogers, who's been spending his time in Florida since leaving the House in 2015, but he's not the only one. Republican Senate hopefuls in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Montana, and Wisconsin all have questionable ties to their home states—a problem that Democrats have gleefully exploited in recent years. (Remember Dr. Oz? Of course you do.)

The Senate appears to be uniting against right-wing House extremists

The Senate appears to be uniting against right-wing House extremists, subjecting Speaker Kevin McCarthy to possibly the biggest test to his leadership to date: averting a government shutdown while responding to this year’s catastrophic natural disasters and maintaining assistance to Ukraine. The two top Senate appropriators have an agreement on a spending bill that will come to the floor next week, and Republican leader Mitch McConnell has been using his bully pulpit to keep aid flowing to Ukraine.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who together lead the Appropriations Committee, announced Wednesday that they have reached a deal on a spending package that will include funding for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; Transportation; Housing and Urban Development; Agriculture, Rural Development, and the Food and Drug Administration, as well as agencies under those larger umbrellas.

That could be the first of a handful of “minibus” bills the Senate pushes in the next few weeks, Sen. Jon Tester told Politico on Tuesday. If the Senate shows a united front on passing these funding bills, it would significantly increase pressure on McCarthy to pass a stopgap funding bill and avoid a government shutdown. That’s not a sure thing: The Senate is famously slow when it comes to legislating. To get these bills considered quickly, they’ll have to be advanced by unanimous consent. That avoids the lengthy process of cloture votes and hours of debate time. Any single senator—like the infamously obstructionist Republican Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, for example—could derail that with a simple objection.

So far, however, there hasn’t been much in the way of government-shutdown cheerleading from the usual subjects in the Republican Senate conference. In fact, as Murray and Collins noted in their announcement that “we worked with our colleagues in a bipartisan way to draft and pass out of Committee all twelve appropriations bills for the first time in years—and did so with overwhelming bipartisan votes.” There appears to be little appetite among Senate Republicans for picking this particular fight.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is intent on keeping the conference united on this one. Last week, he reiterated that the Republicans in the Senate were not going to emulate the House and renege on the budget deal that McCarthy struck with President Joe Biden earlier this year to resolve the debt-ceiling standoff. “The House then turned around and passed spending levels that were below that level,” McConnell said. “Without stating an opinion about that, that’s not going to be replicated in the Senate.”

McConnell has also set down a marker on continuing funding for Ukraine, another factor in a potential deal to avert a shutdown. The administration’s request for supplemental funding to Ukraine will likely be attached to a short-term funding bill, as would its request for emergency disaster relief. Funding for disaster relief should be a no-brainer for Republicans politically, as well as a top priority. Tying it to Ukraine assistance and keeping the government open should keep a healthy majority on board.

McConnell is doing his bit to keep up the drum beat. He has spent the last two days hammering on the need to keep funding flowing to Ukraine. “It is certainly not the time to go wobbly,” he said in a floor speech Wednesday. “It is not the time to ease up."

McConnell from Senate floor on more Ukraine aid:“Helping Ukraine retake its territory means weakening 1 of America’s biggest strategic adversaries w/o firing a shot & deterring another one in the process. It means investing directly in American strength,both military & economic."

— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) September 6, 2023

The stakes are high for McConnell. He wants Republicans to regain the majority in 2024, and avoiding a government shutdown is vital to that goal. He’s walking the usual tightrope between keeping the increasingly MAGA-like base happy, while not giving Democrats any additional fodder to hammer Republican opponents.

That’s nothing compared with what McCarthy faces, however. For him, the outcome is more politically existential: whether he keeps his speakership. He’s getting pressure from his supposed ally Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who won’t vote for any government funding, or support for Ukraine, or really anything until she gets an impeachment inquiry, as she recently detailed in a long, unhinged tweet thread.

McCarthy’s more vocal adversaries are taking direct aim at his speakership. Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz threatened a challenge in a tweet Tuesday, writing, “We’ve got to seize the initiative. That means forcing votes on impeachment. And if @SpeakerMcCarthy stands in our way, he may not have the job long. Let’s hope he works with us, not against us.”

Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a Freedom Caucus leader, has piled on with a series of tweets, retweets, and replies firing up the MAGA base for a shutdown. That includes retweeting a post exclaiming, “Chip for Speaker!!!”

That’s a direct message to McCarthy that either of them—or anyone else in the extremist bunch—would be willing to use the tool they extorted from him in his leadership bid in January: the motion to vacate the chair. That allows any single one of them to bring the equivalent of a no-confidence vote to the floor at any time. It’s not the first time Roy has made this veiled threat.

This is the biggest test for McCarthy’s ability to lead, one that everyone paying attention knew would happen if he didn’t stand up to the extremists at some point. He scraped by in the first test on the debt ceiling by striking a deal with Biden—the deal which the extremists forced him to renege on. He’s facing a choice again: Will he stick with the Trump MAGA minority, or try to protect his slim majority—particularly the “Biden 18,” the freshmen Republicans holding districts Biden won in 2020?

It’s also, of course, a test for those supposed moderates, one they’ve failed before. They have the power to block the minority of extremists, if they’re willing to use it.

Sign and send the petition: Pass a clean funding bill. No GOP hostage taking.


Nancy Mace and the myth of the moderate Republican

McCarthy's speaker deals come back to haunt him

McCarthy caves to rebels for temporary truce

McCarthy is screwing over swing-district Republicans

It’s the Ukraine Update episode! Kerry interviews Markos to talk about what is happening in Ukraine, what needs to be done, and why the fate of Ukraine is tied to democracy’s fate in 2024.

House Republican extremists look like they want a government shutdown

We are in September now, which means the government-shutdown stopwatch is ticking. This congressional calendar is even more fraught than usual because there’s just so much that Congress needs to do—and yet, House Republican extremists remain intent on creating chaos. Making matters worse, the House remains on vacation this week, and has scheduled only 12 legislative days before the fiscal year ends and government funding expires on Oct. 1.

Government funding isn’t the only thing that’s supposed to be accomplished in the next three weeks. The end of September is also the deadline for the high-stakes farm bill and a reauthorization bill—the legislation that governs how funds are supposed to be spent by agencies—for the Federal Aviation Administration. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is running out of money and needs a cash infusion to keep responding to the recent disasters in Hawaii and Florida, much less what the remainder of hurricane and wildfire season may bring.

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A few weeks ago, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy floated a possible deal with Democrats to pass a short-term funding bill to keep the government running while Congress continues to work on the regular appropriations bills. At least one hard-line Republican, Georgia’s Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, has declared she won’t vote for it unless the House first votes to begin impeaching President Joe Biden.

Rep. Chip Roy of Texas is joining in, not necessarily on impeaching Biden as a condition of funding the government, but more so in opposition to having a functioning government. On Monday, Texas Sen. John Cornyn tweeted about the impending shutdown, obliquely chastising the House Republicans for being “universes” apart from Senate Republicans on funding government. Roy quickly responded by saying that Republicans shouldn’t fund “the things they campaign against - and then just shrug… border… DOJ weaponization… DOD wokeness… IRS abuse… COVID tyranny.”

That’s left McCarthy weakly arguing that if they shut down the government, then they won’t be able to keep investigating Biden. “If we shut down, all of government shuts down — investigation and everything else. It hurts the American public,” he said.

The White House has asked for a short-term continuing resolution, which is the only viable solution at this point to keep the government open. The Senate—Democrats and many Republicans—are on board. So now it all boils down to whether McCarthy will finally buck Republican extremists and work with Democrats on a stopgap bill to extend current levels of funding and likely add additional funding for disaster relief and Ukraine support.

The far-right justices on Wisconsin's Supreme Court just can't handle the fact that liberals now have the majority for the first time in 15 years, so they're in the throes of an ongoing meltdown—and their tears are delicious. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," co-hosts David Nir and David Beard drink up all the schadenfreude they can handle as they puncture conservative claims that their progressive colleagues are "partisan hacks" (try looking in the mirror) or are breaking the law (try reading the state constitution). Elections do indeed have consequences!

Freedom Caucus: ‘We don’t fear the government shutdown’

Hapless House Speaker Kevin McCarthy handed his gavel over to a group that can’t even decide whether shutting down the government is a good thing to do. On Tuesday, members of the Freedom Caucus held a press conference hosted by Freedom Works, the Koch-funded dark money organization that basically created the far-right caucus. They were there to make more of their incoherent and ever-changing demands for government funding. The “demands” boiled down to basically no government funding.

But don’t worry, said Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona: “I don't believe you’re looking at a government shutdown.” Instead, Biggs said that some of the 12 necessary appropriations bills will go to the floor, and then “what we call a minibus” will combine the rest, and “then you’ll see a short-term continuing resolution to continue spending.” Never mind that one of the things the caucus demanded McCarthy agree to was that no appropriations bill could get a vote until all 12 were approved by the committee. And that there wouldn’t be any kind of “omnibus” that combined the bills.

Then Rep. Bob Good piped up. “We should not fear a government shutdown,” he said, because, “[m]ost of what we do up here is bad anyway.” Bring it on!

“Most of the American people won’t even miss if the government is shut down temporarily,” Good continued. McCarthy, he said, “has an opportunity to be a transformational historical speaker that stared down the Democrats, that stared down the free spenders, that stared down the president and said no.”

So that’s what Good wants out of all this: for McCarthy to just say “no.” Add that to all the other constantly moving goalposts these guys have erected:

  • Funding levels at fiscal year 2022 levels.

  • Funding levels at FY22 and also no emergency funding bills.

  • Funding levels at FY22 and no emergency funding bills and lawmakers have to claw back money handed out last year.

  • Pre-COVID funding levels for everything but defense.

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The demands from the caucus as a whole are never-ending, and then there’s what the individual members want. For example, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas said Monday that he would only “consider” passing funding if Congress reduces spending to pre-COVID levels, ends the border “invasion,” defunds the FBI, ends federal diversity policies, ends Ukraine support, and ends the “War on Reliable Energy,” whatever that is supposed to mean. What Roy wants matters because McCarthy gave him a seat on the powerful Rules Committee, the one that decides what goes to the floor for a vote.

These are not people who are going to be happy to go along with stopgap funding bills to keep the government open until somehow they work this all out. It will take just five Republican House members to stop one unless McCarthy decides to work with Democrats to pass it, which would only enrage the Freedom Caucus anew. It’s going to take a miracle, or McCarthy becoming an actual leader (which would also be a miracle), to avoid a shutdown this fall, which is bad for the country and worse for Republicans.

“What would happen if Republicans for once stared down the Democrats and were the ones who refused to cave and to betray the American people and the trust they put in us when they gave us the majority?” Good asked Tuesday. “We don't fear the government shutdown.”

What would happen is that Republicans would lose that majority in 2024. And the Senate, and the White House. But you do you, Congressman Good.

House Republican files impeachment resolution against Mayorkas, and it’s as silly as you think

Part of Kevin McCarthy’s corrupt bargaining in his 15-round bid for the House speakership included supporting ultra-right demands for impeachment proceedings against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. While McCarthy allegedly held no public stance on proceedings earlier in the year, he was leading the threat himself right after the election because he didn’t have the votes to win the gavel.

Part of his corrupt bargaining showed its face this week when a Texas lawmaker on the first day of the new Congress filed articles of impeachment against the secretary. The silly political document claims Mayorkas should be removed “for high crimes and misdemeanors,” and cites in part fentanyl seizures at the southern border as justification. Wait, they want him out for stopping the drugs from coming in? Republicans have been very weirdly mad about successful seizures. Now they want to impeach the guy over it.

RELATED STORY: Jordan is pushing for Mayorkas impeachment based on ridiculous lie that 'we no longer have a border'

But there’s more, folks. Pat Fallon, a forced birth and anti-LGBTQ Republican from Texas’ 4th Congressional District, also cites the Biden administration’s decision to terminate the previous administration’s Remain in Mexico policy. Despite the right-wing Supreme Court of the United States ruling that the administration acted perfectly lawfully in terminating the anti-asylum policy, Fallon thinks Mayorkas should be impeached for it.

Fallon further cites the Biden administration’s attempt to terminate the previous administration’s Title 42 order, calling it “a critical tool enabling the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to quickly expel illegal aliens.” But remember the public health order’s now-delayed Dec. 21 lift date followed a court ruling that found the scientifically debunked policy violated federal law. So is the GOP stance to now violate court orders?

When asked about impeachment articles, Mayorkas was reportedly “not fazed,” one report said. Even if it is successful, it’ll go nowhere in the U.S. Senate.

“I've got a lot of work to do, and we’re going to do it,” Mayorkas told ABC News. The official said the administration is “dealing within a broken immigration system that Congress has failed to repair for decades.” Fact check: True. Not only did Republicans like Texas Sen. John Cornyn help derail a bipartisan immigration framework at the end of the last Congress, McCarthy has promised no humane immigration legislation will get his signature.

“Number two, the world is dealing with the greatest displacement of people since World War II in the Western Hemisphere,” Mayorkas continued to ABC News. “Our entire hemisphere is gripped with a migration challenge.” New parole opportunities for migrants from regions including Venezuela and Haiti are a step forward in beginning to address these challenges; policies like Title 42 are not, considering it’s only increased apprehensions and forced vulnerable people back to danger.

If you want to see the depths of the GOP’s lack of seriousness, take a look at another Texas Republican: Rep. Chip Roy claimed the administration isn’t doing enough to secure the border, so he’s got a plan of his own: Defund DHS. During a floor speech, Roy urged his colleagues “to stop funding a Department of Homeland Security that refuses to secure the border of the United States.” He promised that the newly empowered Republicans would do that “this year.” You mean defund abusive immigration enforcement agencies? Defund child kidnappers, shooters of unarmed migrants, and the agents who abuse Black migrants before deporting themLet’s fucking go. 

Back to the impeachment resolution, one more thing to mention regarding fentanyl seizures is that Republicans have sought to turn this into a political issue against Democrats when its Republicans who voted against hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the construction and modernization of land ports of entry.

“Improvements like ‘multi-energy portal’ screening technology would increase the ability for illicit narcotics seizures at the nation’s borders without significantly impacting the massive amount of legal trade that runs through those same POEs,” immigration reform advocacy group America’s Voice said last year. But Republicans voted against that.

NBC News reported that the articles against Mayorkas “have been referred to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.” Jordan, a former wrestling coach who allegedly looked the other way when young students were being sexually abused at Ohio State University, has previously supported an impeachment effort, falsely claiming “we no longer have a border.” Do Republicans believe their own bullshit? It doesn’t really matter as long as they can get others to believe it.


Testimony confirms Title 42 was never about public health, it was about deporting asylum-seekers

LGBTQ advocates remind us that Stephen Miller was scheming policy 'long before' COVID 'even existed'

Texas Republican wants to secure the border by defunding department tasked with border security