The first time Rep. Kevin McCarthy ran for speaker of the House was back in 2015, at the beginning of the fateful 2016 campaign. He was considered a shoo-in to replace former Speaker John Boehner who quit in disgust and skedaddled back to Ohio after the going-over he received from the newly empowered Freedom Caucus. McCarthy was a prodigious fundraiser who wore his ambition on his sleeve. He was on the cusp of achieving his dream when he put his foot in his mouth and admitted that the Republicans weren’t entirely on the up-and-up in their exaggerated concern about the terrorist attack in Benghazi and all the related investigations:
Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping.
The Republicans were at least briefly embarrassed and dumped McCarthy for former vice-presidential candidate and all around dreamboat Paul Ryan who, like Boehner before him, couldn’t wrangle his fractious caucus and quit the Congress just three years later.
Those seem like innocent times, don’t they? McCarthy is once again in line to be speaker of the House at the head of a modest and disorderly Republican majority, but if he were to make that comment today no one would even blink. Of course the Republicans will run investigations meant to drive down Joe Biden’s numbers. It’s payback time. Sen. Ted Cruz said it right out loud when he told his podcast audience that Democrats had used impeachment “for partisan purposes to go after Trump because they disagreed with him. And one of the real disadvantages of doing that … is the more you weaponize it and turn it into a partisan cudgel, you know, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.” That rationale applies equally well to all forms of investigative “oversight.”
Greene has had as many press conference since the election as Kevin McCarthy has, and is covered in the press like a party leader. That’s because she is one — and probably the primary driver of the GOP agenda.
Trump henchman Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio was talked up as a potential rival to McCarthy but is now backing him, leading the California congressman to believe that he’s got the Freedom Caucus kooks under his control. McCarthy recently said that “probably my biggest advocate is Jim Jordan.” Maybe he’s right: Jordan is apparently happy to be the incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, where he can grill Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Chris Wray over their alleged bias against poor, long-suffering Donald Trump. Jordan will be kept plenty busy avenging his mentor, and if it happens to lead to the impeachment said mentor is demanding, well, he might just have no choice. The man just wants to follow the facts. Or to be more precise, “the facts.”
Likewise, there’s Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the incoming chairman of the House Oversight Committee, who has announced his intention to address the most pressing problem America faces: Hunter Biden.
After McCarthy met privately with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia — the biggest and most dangerous star in his caucus — he purportedly lured her into endorsing him by feeding Greene the spin that untrustworthy RINO members might defect to the Democrats and turn over the majority if he weren’t the leader. But we have reason to believe that’s not what really happened. Greene made that clear enough last month in an interview with the New York Times, speaking about her comrades on the party’s lunatic rightward fringe:
I think that to be the best speaker of the House and to please the base, he’s going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway. And if he doesn’t, they’re going to be very unhappy about it. I think that’s the best way to read that. And that’s not in any way a threat at all. I just think that’s reality.
McCarthy is not exactly known for his fortitude in the face of a bully, so get ready for Shadow Speaker Marjorie Taylor Greene. She’s tanned, rested and aching for a fight.
Already this week, Greene held a press conference to announce that she’s backing McCarthy, saying that nothing matters more than Republicans maintaining subpoena power and declaring that if anyone threatens that, “I won’t let that happen.” She later appeared on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast and threw down:
Politics is a blood sport. And because it is so difficult and you have to fight as hard as possible. And, Steve, you know what that’s like. We have to dig in sometimes and we have to do everything we can to stop our enemy. And the enemy is the Democrat Party. That’s the enemy of America because they are destroying our country and selling us out. And so this is why our conference has to unify.
With her vast experience in Congress since she was sworn in all the way back in 2021 — yes, she’s still in her first term —Greene says she knows the score and is ready to take on anyone who gets in her way:
And if Jake Sherman [of Punchbowl News] wants to call it the “MTG wing” of the party, so be it. But I’m also willing to step out. And I know the ground. I know how it works on the inside and the outside.
So what does Shadow Speaker Greene specifically plan to do, besides keep the hapless McCarthy on a short leash? Well, you may recall that just last year, in her first months in Congress, she was unceremoniously stripped of all her committee assignments after years’ worth of conspiracy theories and racist statements came to light. How times have changed.
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Greene has demanded a seat on the Oversight Committee, which as Comer made clear is first and foremost planning to do a lot of investigations, starting with Hunter Biden and his infamous laptop before moving on to the origins of COVID (featuring conspiracy theories about Dr. Anthony Fauci), the Afghanistan withdrawal and whatever else. They have a new one to add to the list, as the New York Times reported on Thursday:
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.
If you were wondering whether Shadow Speaker Greene has any actual policy interests, yes in fact she does.
Which is likely to lead to yet another investigation:
Greene has had as many press conferences since the election as McCarthy has had and is covered in the press like a party leader. That’s because she is one — probably the most important one. Marjorie Taylor Greene will clearly be leader of the MAGA caucus in the 118th Congress and most likely the primary driver of the Republican agenda. If anyone thinks she’s going to allow the party to “moderate,” or to seek compromise on anything she cares about, they’d better think again.
If Kevin McCarthy flames out — which given his own history and his party’s, is more likely than not — look for Greene to make a major move into leadership. She’s feeling the power, and she loves it.
about the Republicans’ rising star