Republicans roiled as McCarthy likely faces first floor fight over leadership in a century

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy heads into this week on very shaky ground. The wannabe speaker will have a tiny majority—four or five seats, depending on the result in the last uncalled race un California’s 13th District. He’s already got five GOP opponents of his speakership, enough to scuttle it.

That could mean the first floor fight for speaker in exactly 100 years, when Republican Frederick Gillett of Massachusetts had to undergo nine votes over a number of days, with a lot of negotiations and many concessions along the way. The leader of the breakaway Republicans, Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, challenged McCarthy in the full GOP conference vote for speaker earlier this month and isn’t going to stop fighting.

“He doesn’t have the votes,” Biggs, a leader of the Freedom Caucus, told NBC News. “Some of the stages of grief include denial, so there will be some denial, and then there’ll be the stage of bargaining where people are trying to figure out … will there be some kind of consensus candidate that emerges.”

RELATED STORY: It took House GOP just one day to show why Democrats need to bomb-proof everything while they can

Biggs and his cohorts—Reps. Bob Good of Virginia, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Matt Rosendale of Montana—are all publicly opposing McCarthy. Good told Politico that he thinks there are at least a dozen who are solid “no” votes. The tally from that secret balloting in the GOP conference was 188-31. That’s a long way from the 218 McCarthy’s going to need, and a lot of bargaining that Democrats are already branding as “corrupt.”

A nonprofit group called Facts First USA, chaired by former GOP Rep. David Jolly of Florida and Democratic strategist Maria Cardona, has a memo circulating among Democrats to highlight just how much McCarthy’s going to cave to the maniacs in order to emerge victorious. The messaging in the memo could play to the Republican moderates, who could definitely play the spoiler role in this fight.

“Democrats should undertake a concerted messaging campaign over the next 5 weeks through January 3rd to brand McCarthy’s struggling campaign to win the speakership as a ‘corrupt bargain’ he is striking with ultra MAGA extremists in the Republican caucus to attain the 218 votes he needs to secure the job,” longtime Democratic activist David Brock wrote in the memo.

That’s not going to be hard, looking at what happened on Day One of the GOP majority. That was the day of the press conference from Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, incoming chair of the House Oversight Committee, and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the expected Judiciary Committee chair, about their investigation into the Biden family and the whole QAnon Hunter laptop thing they’re into. Brock labeled it an “unhinged rant” in his memo, and he wasn’t wrong.

It’s not going to be at all difficult for Democrats to use this messaging, that McCarthy is going to make a “corrupt bargain with MAGA” maniacs and allow them to “run wild with any conspiracy theory investigation or impeachment in exchange for their vote.” We’re already there. He’s made the unofficial Q spokesperson, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a part of his ad hoc leadership team and probably promised her a seat on the Oversight committee. Her pal Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, the white supremacist whisperer, is likely going to get his Oversight seat back—the one that was stripped in the current Congress because he is so dangerous.

Meanwhile, Democrats are in total array as the leadership passes from Speaker Nancy Pelosi to a new generation. They’re also relishing the prospect of watching the GOP civil war play out after McCarthy and crew did their best to derail Pelosi’s very slim—and very successful—majority of the past two years.

“They’re going to be fraught with fractures and friction and challenges and apostates. I wish them well in trying to manage that crowd,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia in a Politico interview. He predicted even worse problems for McCarthy than his predecessors faced. “Paul Ryan and John Boehner both had a bigger majority, and they couldn’t exercise control.” And they both were essentially forced out by the maniacs.

The good part, should House and Senate Democrats manage to get as organized and efficient together as possible, is that McCarthy and crew shouldn’t be able to create a lot of damage legislatively. “I don’t lie awake at night worrying about the bad legislation they are going to pass. Because I don’t think they’re going to pass it,” said Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia.

What’s going to make life even harder for McCarthy is his pledge to end proxy voting in the House. It’s been effect for almost all of this Congress because of the COVID-19 pandemic. McCarthy can’t not end it at this point—he had such a hissy fit over it he took it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to even hear it. He’s got to end it, and that means that on any given day, he would have even fewer votes available to accomplish anything.

Unless he strikes a bargain with moderates and Democrats, assuming he does end up with the speakership. It’s just possible that the corrupt bargain label sticks hard enough to McCarthy that moderates hold out and vote with Democrats on an alternative speaker. It’s not terribly likely, but it’s also not impossible.

Those 31 votes McCarthy didn’t get in the secret ballot aren’t all Freedom maniacs—a big chunk could be up for grabs to allow that 218 votes to go to a consensus candidate from Democrats and the few dozen GOP moderates. Now wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants?

As the final results of the 2022 midterm elections came into focus this past week, the lack of clarity in the GOP’s leadership also became apparent. Kerry and Markos break down what this means for Democratic voters going forward and how Donald Trump’s campaign for president is a lose lose proposition for Republicans.  

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McCarthy hands the detonator to the bomb-throwers

Republicans have been promising for weeks that if they took the House of Representatives, it would be payback time for Democrats. Sure, they had a big show around releasing their “Commitment to America” to attempt to show that they had some kind of intent to act like real responsible adults put in charge of a nation, but it was all show and no substance.

Now they have their teeny-tiny majority, they’re doing exactly what they said they’d do: seek revenge on Democrats for winning and doing popular stuff. This was the first public statement from the House GOP after securing their gerrymandered, tiny majority.

Hunter Biden's laptop is REAL.

— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) November 17, 2022

That’s previewing the first official press conference where Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and James Comer of Kentucky, the incoming chairs of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees respectively, announce their ridiculous probes into Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son. They gave a preview—where else—on Sean Hannity’s show Wednesday. “We are going to make it very clear that this is now an investigation of President Biden,” Comer told Hannity. Because bogus investigations have worked out so well for them.

It is of course not just Biden, but also Anthony Fauci who is retiring this year. Jordan’s “FBI & DOJ politicization” allegations include his 1,050 page “report,” 1,000 pages of which are copies of the letters they’ve sent to the Biden administration. (This includes 470 pages that are all the same five-page letter sent to U.S. Attorneys.) There’s also Afghanistan and the border and, of course, impeachment investigations from Biden on down.

Speaking of investigations, The New York Times reports: “In a closed-door meeting of Republicans on Monday, right-wing lawmakers including Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia extracted a promise that their leaders would investigate Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Justice Department for their treatment of defendants jailed in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.”

Over at NBC News, Scott Wong says: “McCarthy and other leaders will have their hands full as they try to keep their wafer-thin majority united and corral conservative bomb throwers who are clamoring to shut down the government and impeach President Joe Biden and his top allies.”

News flash: McCarthy and the other leaders are the bomb-throwers.

Oh, and that bit about taking the debt ceiling hostage to force Social Security and Medicare cuts? They mean that, too. Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, the top Republican on the Budget Committee, told Wong, “As it relates to the debt ceiling, Americans rightly expect that their elected officials will use every tool we have to fix whatever crises the country faces—whether it’s the spike in prices, an unsecured border, rising debt, you name it.

“Republicans will use every tool we have to bring relief to Americans and put the country back on the right track.”

They mean it. Which means it is imperative that Democrats use this lame duck to keep them away from the most dangerous weapons.

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House GOP promises vengeance on Democrats for doing good stuff while in power

We're now in the second week of election overtime and there are still plenty of major races yet to be decided—as well as tons more great news for Democrats to exult over on this week's episode of The Downballot. On the uncalled races front, co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dive into a pair of House races in California and several legislatures that could flip from red to blue, including the Pennsylvania House. Speaking of legislatures, the Davids also go deep on what the astonishing flips in Michigan will mean for progressives and particularly organized labor.

House GOP promises vengeance on Democrats for doing good stuff while in power

House Republican candidates are ostensibly running on issues this fall. Odious chair of the House Republican Conference and Rep. Elise Stefanik insisted as much in a Fox interview this weekend. “Republicans are going to fight on behalf of the American people to help save America, to focus on economic issues, to rein in the spending that’s driving our inflation, to unleash American energy independence to lower the price of gas, energy, home heating bills. So there’s a lot that the average American family is concerned about. Republicans have solutions and legislation ready to move in the first 100 days,” she said.

They don’t, actually. They have a snazzy website and a one-page “Commitment to America” memo, a summary of platitudes like “support our troops,” “exercise peace through strength with our allies to counter increasing global threats,” “recover lost learning from school closures,” and “uphold free speech.” And, of course, “rigorous oversight.” All of which really means tax cuts (and defunding the IRS again, which effectively means more tax cuts) and investigations.

Here’s a 100% guaranteed promise for all investigations, all the time. Here’s Rep. James Comer, who is the ranking member on the House Oversight Committee and thus the guy who will get the chair if Republicans take over.

Hunter Biden and the Biden Family have peddled influence across the globe to enrich themselves at the expense of American interests. It’s clear that Joe was involved. The question is: to what extent? We will get that answer for the American people. @MorningsMaria pic.twitter.com/HNgIwRQiZ9

— Rep. James Comer (@RepJamesComer) October 10, 2022

Don’t let them do it. Please give $1 now to each of these 12 races where Democrats are fighting to flip GOP seats in the House this year!

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It’s all about vengeance. It’s been all about vengeance since the nation had the temerity to elect a Black man to the White House and that president was able to do big stuff, like lower millions of people’s health insurance costs. The good news is that after 12 years, the Republicans have finally abandoned Obamacare repeal. (Mostly.)

House Republicans who never managed to actually come up with a health care alternative to the Affordable Care Act and whose only real accomplishment when in the majority has been tax cuts for the rich have one skill: holding a grudge and making political hay out of it. Democrats impeached Trump? Republicans will impeach President Joe Biden, whether he actually did anything or not.

And not just Biden—they’ve already filed 14 impeachment resolutions against Biden as well as Vice President Kamala Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and Attorney General Merrick Garland. Five of them have come from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, most recently seen riling up a MAGA crowd with fascistic, dangerous rhetoric: “Biden’s 5 million illegal aliens are on the verge of replacing you, your jobs, and your kids in school. Coming from all over the world, they’re also replacing your culture.”

Don’t think because Greene is a dangerous whack-job she doesn’t have sway in the Republican caucus. She was sitting right up front when House Speaker Kevin McCarthy unveiled his “commitment” in Pennsylvania last month. “I’m going to be a strong legislator and I’ll be a very involved member of Congress,” she told the Associated Press. “I know how to work inside, and I know how to work outside. And I’m looking forward to doing that.”

The feckless McCarthy has already given in to her, clearly. So if the House does flip to Republicans, he’s going to need her and the other MAGA crowd to hang on to leadership. One Democratic aide put it bluntly and graphically in a Politico interview: “Those members will have his balls in such a vice grip that when they say ‘jump’, he’ll say ‘how high’, and it’ll be too late before he realizes the fall will kill them.”

That assessment was essentially confirmed by Comer. When he was asked recently about whether there was going to be caucus pressure to impeach Biden, he answered, “I’m not under pressure, because that’s gonna be McCarthy’s job.”

Don’t let Marjorie Taylor Greene become the puppet master in charge of the House of Representatives. Help keep the House in Democratic hands.

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After an eruption of even more scandals among Republican Senate candidates, FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich returns to The Downballot this week to discuss the effect these sorts of scandals can have on competitive races; whether Democrats stand a chance to keep the House; and the different ways pollsters create likely voter models.

Rep. Schiff reminds GOP colleague that Trump-Russia collusion was all too real

Contrary to Donald Trump’s usual attempts to pulverize reality into an unrecognizable heap of dust he can power-snort directly into his fib-pickled brain, the Trump-Russia investigation was neither a witch hunt nor a hoax.

For one thing, Robert Mueller’s report—which former Attorney General Bill Barr (mostly successfully) hid from public scrutiny like a 3-year-old flushing a poopy Underoo—identified at least 10 instances of likely obstruction on the part of our erstwhile pr*sident. The report flatly stated that Trump “engaged in a second phase of conduct, involving public attacks on the investigation, non-public efforts to control it, and efforts both in public and private to encourage witnesses not to cooperate with the investigation.”

That sure smells like obstruction to me, and because Trump’s involved, it’s also faintly redolent of deep-fried lard pops with rainbow sprinkles. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress and elsewhere have taken it as an article of faith that Trump was fully exonerated by Mueller, even though Mueller pointedly stated he’d done no such thing. But Republicans have long since decided to pretend that the most corrupt and dishonest human ever to sully this nation’s shores is America’s true savior and lone beacon of truth.

But despite Republicans’ efforts to sweep Trump-Russia collusion under the rug, it’s still there. And occasionally Rep. Adam Schiff, a dogged critic of Trump who was front-and-center during the venal makeup mannequin’s first impeachment, brings some of that dirt back out to show everyone what Trump really was—and is.

Here he was on Thursday, slapping down yet another lost GOP sheep, Kentucky Rep. James Comer:

Yesterday, a Republican said he’d be excited if I would share the facts of Trump’s Russia collusion with him. I was more than happy to take him up on his offer. He was less happy when I did. pic.twitter.com/D74zC044at

— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) December 10, 2021

COMER: “Mr. Speaker, every time Chairman Schiff rises to speak about intelligence and security and holding the president accountable, I get excited hoping that we’re going to hear about that evidence of collusion and all the other investigations that were conducted in this House over the past year … I’ll yield back, absolutely.”

SCHIFF: “Will the gentleman yield? Will the gentleman yield? Well, let me ask the gentleman, are you aware, just by way of illustration, that the president’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, secretly met with an agent of Russian intelligence and provided Russian intelligence with internal campaign polling data as well as strategic insights about their strategy in key battleground states? Are you aware of that?”

COMER: “I think everyone’s aware of every bit of information that you all have tried to peddle over the past four years.”

SCHIFF: “Let me ask you, are you aware that while the Trump campaign chairman was providing internal polling data that Kremlin intelligence was leading a clandestine social media campaign to elect Donald Trump? Are you aware of that?”

COMER: “I think we see every day, Facebook just announced that Russia was trying to do a Facebook campaign in Ukraine, if I remember reading that correctly. Mr. Schiff …

SCHIFF: “Would you like me to go on?”

I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want you to go on, Rep. Schiff. But I can, if you don’t mind.

In fact, collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia wasn’t just proven—it was a flashing red light that should have been widely acknowledged as a scandal for the ages.

As Franklin Foer, a staff writer for The Atlantic, noted in Aug. 2020, Manafort was in near-constant contact with a bona fide Russian agent during the 2016 presidential election campaign:

When Mueller’s prosecutors appeared in court, in February 2019, they implied that the most troubling evidence they had uncovered implicated Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman. This wasn’t a surprising admission. Throughout their filings, Mueller’s team referred to Manafort’s Kyiv-based aide-de-camp, Konstantin Kilimnik, as an active Russian agent. Manafort had clearly spoken with Kilimnik during the campaign, and had even passed confidential campaign information to him, with the understanding that the documents would ultimately arrive in the hands of oligarchs close to the Kremlin.

Well, there’s your collusion, Rep. Comer. Pretty cut and dried. But that’s not all!

The Senate Select Committee’s Aug. 2020 report on Russian interference in the 2016 election went into great detail about Manafort’s Russian connections, but it didn’t get nearly the attention the long-anticipated Mueller report had. Nevertheless, it was damning.

The committee fills in the gaps somewhat. It reports that Manafort and Kilimnik talked almost daily during the campaign. They communicated through encrypted technologies set to automatically erase their correspondence; they spoke using code words and shared access to an email account. It’s worth pausing on these facts: The chairman of the Trump campaign was in daily contact with a Russian agent, constantly sharing confidential information with him. That alone makes for one of the worst scandals in American political history.

And in case you think Trump himself was innocent in all this, think again:

When Manafort—with a pardon dangling in front of him—brazenly lied to prosecutors, he helped save Trump from having to confront this damning story. He wasn’t the only Trump associate to obstruct justice. (The committee has referred five Trump aides and supporters to the Justice Department for possibly providing false testimony.) By undermining investigators, Trump’s cronies rendered Mueller’s report a hash lacking a firm conclusion. They helped detonate the charge of collusion, letting it fizzle well ahead of the 2020 election.

And, of course, in one of the most corrupt moves in U.S. presidential history, Trump later pardoned Manafort, his confederate in collusion.

One can only hope Trump will face his comeuppance before too long—and it appears New York Attorney General Letitia James is bound and determined to make that happen. In the meantime, we all need to speak up whenever MAGAs try to claim the Russia investigation was nothing but a hoax—because, in reality, it clearly exposed Trump as the corrupt asshole we always knew he was.

It made comedian Sarah Silverman say, “THIS IS FUCKING BRILLIANT,” and prompted author Stephen King to shout “Pulitzer Prize!!!” (on Twitter, that is). What is it? The viral letter that launched four hilarious Trump-trolling books. Get them all, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.