Freedom Caucus in disarray while GOP gives new meaning to swearing-in ceremony

Freedom Caucus in disarray while GOP gives new meaning to swearing-in ceremony

Asked about the Friday night chaos on the GOP side of the House floor, Democratic Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois recalled something his son once asked him.

“My son a few years ago asked me, ‘what’s a swearing-in?’ He said ‘what swear words are you gonna be using at this event,'” Krishnamoorthi, said with a smile during an interview on MSNBC Saturday afternoon. “And last night, I gotta tell you, the f-bombs were flying especially on the Republican side.”

“I was in the scrum near Matt Gaetz and Kevin McCarthy and then Mike Rogers and I have not seen any scenes like that on the floor of the House in my time in Congress. I hope not to see that again.”

He was referring to the heated exchange between Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz and now-Speaker Kevin McCarthy after the Florida representative’s “present” vote forced a 15th roll call vote after midnight. And that was followed by Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama having to be restrained from physically attacking Gaetz by North Carolina Rep. Richard Hudson.

RELATED STORY: Stunning images captured of GOP lawmakers scrambling during House speaker vote

“Unfortunately the chaos of last night, I think, portends more chaos. Especially on important issues such as the debt limit, raising the debt limit, avoiding government shutdowns and so forth,” Krishnamoorthi said.

And now it turns out that it was really all Rep. Lauren Boebert’s fault that the GOP had to go to a 15th ballot. All the embarrassment could have been avoided if Boebert hadn’t switched from voting for other nominees to instead voting “present” on the 14th ballot. And so let’s just call the GOP House caucus the gang that couldn’t vote straight.

During an appearance Sunday on CNN’s Inside Politics, Punchbowl News Co-founder John Bresnahan explained:

”One thing that was interesting to me is that what we were told was Lauren Boebert was sitting next to Gaetz, and we were told on that vote, on the 14th vote, she was actually going to vote for Gaetz, which would have allowed Gaetz to vote present, which McCarthy would have won on the 14th vote.

“Voted for Gaetz, then Gaetz can vote present. What happened is she voted present, and Gaetz voted present, and he didn’t get it. He got on the number but he didn’t get there. There was some confusion about what was happening, and that’s when everybody panicked and flipped out.”

Of course, leave it to Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan to say something ignorant and downplay what happened with a novel theory of originalism. On Fox News Sunday, Jordan said:

“Kevin McCarthy got the same number of votes that (Nancy) Pelosi got. She had the same majority number, 222, that we have this time. So sometimes democracy is messy. But I would argue that’s exactly how the Founders intended it. They wanted real debate, real input from all people and then you get a decision.” 

In 2015, Jordan led the effort to help defeat McCarthy, the establishment choice for speaker, after the Freedom Caucus forced out Speaker John Boehner. This time around, Jordan backed McCarthy and acted as an emissary to those Freedom Caucus members who didn’t trust the California representative. Jordan is set to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee where he will act like an elephant in a china shop by investigating all kinds of conspiracy theories.

RELATED STORY: House Republicans are firing up the Jim Jordan show, and it’s going to be ugly

McCarthy made so many concessions in the speakership battle that it would seem that the Freedom Caucus should have more influence than ever before. But at the same time, the fight revealed that the far-right caucus itself is in some disarray, raising questions of whether they can take advantage of the opportunity. 

The Washington Post wrote on Sunday:

The McCarthy episode exposed not just a fault in the broader GOP conference of 222 Republicans, but also a deepening rift within today’s version of the Freedom Caucus. On one side sit the more senior members like Jordan, who was first elected in 2006 and is poised to chair the Judiciary Committee, as well as Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), an eight-year incumbent who serves on McCarthy’s leadership team.

They remain deeply conservative but they don’t quite hold the burn-everything-down ethos of the caucus’s earliest days, as they now stand to actually hold power once the House gets up and running.

On the other side sit relative newcomers such as Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who embrace the model that Meadows perfected, using social media and Fox News appearances to draw attention to their cause.
Of the 20 Republicans who repeatedly voted for a conservative alternative to McCarthy, just three have served more than three terms. …

The conservatives fractured even further Friday after two-thirds of the group broke apart to support McCarthy during afternoon votes. The final bloc of six holdouts put McCarthy through one more humiliation late Friday, before finally letting him win on the 15th ballot early Saturday, the most since before the Civil War.

And a new battle is shaping up over the House rules package in which McCarthy made concession after concession to the Freedom Caucus that would make it difficult to pass even common-sense legislation. The question now is how many “moderate” Republicans will join with a united Democratic front to reject the rules package.

RELATED STORY: House ready to move into next potentially bruising battle over rules package

Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas has already indicated his opposition.

I am a NO on the house rules package. Welcome to the 118th Congress.

— Tony Gonzales (@TonyGonzales4TX) January 7, 2023

And on Sunday, Republican Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina called Gaetz “a fraud” and threatened to vote against the rules package.

Nancy Mace on Face the Nation on how she’ll be able to work wit Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz to get things done: “It’s going to be very difficult. Matt Gaetz is a fraud.”

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) January 8, 2023

And Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chairman, says the whole debacle indicates that McCarthy can’t get no respect from his caucus. Asked on MSNBC’s The Sunday Show whether he was surprised by the troubles McCarthy has faced and will continue to face, Steele replied:

“Oh, hell no, no, no! Look, I will tell you, one member of the caucus summed it up for me perfectly. This was a while ago when he said, ‘Kevin McCarthy is the Ted Cruz of the House.’ So if you want to know how the members feel about Kevin McCarthy, that’s all you need to know.

“The reality is that they don’t like him, they did not want him for the job, nobody else stood to take it, nobody else would take it. I guess if you win by default after 15 ballots, after all of the money that you raised for candidates, and you think because you raise the money that they like you and want you for your leader, then yes, this is what it looks like.”

Meanwhile, it’s Democrats in array as all 212 members of the caucus voted ballot after ballot for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. And their confidence that they had made the right pick for leader was reinforced watching McCarthy grow smaller and smaller in stature as Jeffries delivered his inspirational “A to Z” speech before handing over the speaker’s gavel.

And one more time:

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