I am largely inured to political dysfunction (that’s both a byproduct and requirement of my job), but even I’m stunned at the levels of buffoonery on display this week in the hallowed halls of American government. Join me for a tour, won’t you?
The Big Takeaway
Friends, we cannot avoid it any longer: It is time to talk about Kevin.
On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) failed yet again to clinch the title of Speaker of the House. His failure now spans three consecutive days and at least 11 votes. He failed even after bowing to demands from the MAGA Republicans blocking his election, including a promise to allow any one lawmaker to force a vote to oust him from leadership. Those Republicans continued to vote against McCarthy for speaker even after knowing that they could easily remove him from the job. McCarthy — and I cannot overstate this — failed.
The ongoing saga is unprecedented in modern-day Congress, where the election of the speaker is typically a pro forma affair with a foregone conclusion. McCarthy is the first candidate in a century whose election has taken longer than a day. Only seven speaker votes have required more ballots than this one. It’s an amusing spectacle, but it’s also a consequential delay that continues to hinder the ability of Congress to function as a legislative body. Until the House elects a speaker, its members cannot be sworn in or vote on anything — except for the candidates for speaker.
To rephrase: The body cannot function without a speaker, and the speaker cannot, apparently, function at all. The snake eats its tail. My soul grows ever more shriveled.
As of this writing, there’s no end in sight. Republicans on Wednesday hinted that they’d begun formulating a back-up plan but offered no details, telling reporters on a media call that they couldn’t “be public about it for the time being,” according to reporting from our bureau in D.C. But that plan hadn’t materialized as of our deadline Thursday evening, when Democrats pledged to resist calls to adjourn even as McCarthy's vote totals remained stagnant. The MAGA holdouts stood defiant even after former President Donald Trump weighed in on Truth Social (lol), urging the group to “VOTE FOR KEVIN, TAKE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY.”
Among those leading the #NeverKevin resistance is U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Colorado Republican who’s best known for heckling President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address. Boebert on Tuesday cast her votes for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio who said he has no desire to be speaker, per Colorado Newsline. On Wednesday, the normally stalwart Trump loyalist responded to her leader’s Truth Social (lol) post by saying he should tell McCarthy to withdraw from contention. (U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., was more loyal, casting multiple votes for Trump himself.)
Boebert deviated slightly from the #NeverKevin faction on Thursday, saying in a floor speech that she would, in fact, cast her vote for a Kevin — U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern, a Republican from Oklahoma.
Minutes later, Hern cast his vote for McCarthy.
Perhaps hoping to avoid this type of public discord, Republicans in Idaho are pondering a new strategy for party stragglers: Punishment. A proposed rule change, slated to go before GOP officials this week, would implement sanctions for Republican lawmakers who deviate from the state party’s platform, the Idaho Capital Sun reported.
Proponents of the change said it aims to shore up public confidence in the state GOP by empowering the party to “enforce the policies and principles it claims as its foundation.”
“Without enforcement, the expressed policies and principles of the party are nothing more than ideals and philosophy,” the proposal reads. “Republican legislators have, at times, defied their pledge and oath, voting on legislative matters substantially contrary to the party’s expressed policies and principles. Republican executive officers also have, at times, conducted their offices contrary to Republican and constitutional principles.”
The policy would authorize party officials to “call into question” the conduct of state and federal lawmakers by gathering petition signatures from committee members. Once a petition clears a designated signature threshold, the rebel lawmaker would be summoned to a meeting to answer for any alleged violations. Lawmakers deemed insufficiently loyal can be censured for their first offense; for subsequent violations, the party can pull its support and prohibit the candidate from using GOP identifiers on campaign materials for a five-year period.
I’ll just say it: The proposal is weird. Most lawmakers do not hew 100% to their party’s platform, which has less to do with loyalty than with the absurdities tucked away in political doctrine. In Idaho, for example, the Republican Party platform officially endorses abolishing the Federal Reserve Bank and pinning the value of the dollar to the price of gold.
“We believe Idahoans need to protect their savings from the ravages of inflation, which is hidden taxation, and encourage citizens to participate in a systematic acquisition of precious metals which represent real value as opposed to paper currencies,” the platform states.
It seems unlikely that every Republican in Idaho is this bullish on gold, mostly because I doubt that many Republicans (or…humans) have given much thought to the idea. And I’m not sure why anyone would possibly care about that, but under the proposed rule, lawmakers could still be punished for it — and for any other deviation. The looming threat of sanctions would discourage nuance and autonomy among elected officials as well as diminish the will of the voters, who elect — or oust — representatives based on their behavior and beliefs, not their adherence to obscure political literature. It is, according to Bingham County Republican Central Committee Chairman Dan Cravens, a little much.
“That would just be ridiculous, and it would be very damaging to the brand of the Republican Party,” he said. “And it’s something voters would have no patience for.”
Elsewhere in impatience: (Indiana) GOP governor candidates announce big fundraising hauls … Derek Schmidt reflects on his 12 years as Kansas attorney general in farewell letter … Income tax cut, a GOP priority, sails out of Kentucky House committee … (Louisiana) John Kennedy opts against governor’s race: What’s next? … (Maine) Read Gov. Janet Mills’ second inaugural address … (Michigan) Stabenow announces she won’t run again in 2024, sets off speculation on possible successors … Minneapolis voting rights attorney lays out DFL plan for election reform … (New Hampshire) In letters, Democrats and Republicans reject DNC demands regarding first-in-the-nation primary … Oregon teen’s activism could lead to lower voting age … Shapiro taps former Philadelphia commissioner to serve as Pennsylvania’s top election official … (Tennessee) Congressman Cooper bids farewell after three decades in D.C. … (Wisconsin) Documents show Sen. Ron Johnson asking about 2020 electors
From The Newsrooms
One Last Thing
Taylor Swift’s cat is worth $97 million, an eye-popping sum that somehow ranks third among wealthy pets. The Scottish Fold was edged out of the top two by Nala Cat, worth $100 million, but they’re both way behind Gunther VI, a German Shepherd who’s worth a cool $500 million.
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