Censuring a Democratic colleague. Moving to impeach the president and other administration officials. Blocking the House from considering any legislation until Republican leaders relented to demands.

The last two weeks of the House Republican agenda have largely been directed by far-right lawmakers who have pushed forward, in some cases quickly, proposals addressing issues that will fire up their staunchly conservative base. And on substance, many of their Republican colleagues support them.

But simmering tensions about how the House functions have bubbled up into open hostility in recent days. A majority of the Republican conference is growing concerned that the far-right flank will push the boundaries of governing and continue to force votes on red-meat issues that distract from Republicans’ goal of maintaining a unified front while trying to keep the majority in 2024.

“It’s hard to win. It’s easy to lose. We can lose this majority very easily if we decide to do things recklessly,” said Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), who represents a district Joe Biden won by more than 12 points in 2020.

What looks like a common squabble over process belies a much deeper distrust among lawmakers who are still carrying the wounds of a brutal fight to elect Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the passage of a debt ceiling package that infuriated many conservatives. The ongoing theatrics have tested the Republican majority as leadership tries to calibrate the direction of the conference, while vulnerable lawmakers and those concerned with protecting the majority are now equally expressing concern that the far-right’s guerrilla governing is the new normal.

The week after Congress averted defaulting on the nation’s debt, a small number of far-right lawmakers successfully blocked action on the House floor and halted consideration of any legislation for one week as a show of strength to leadership that their votes should not be taken for granted. The group was outraged at McCarthy and his allies for cutting a deal — which needed significant Democratic support to pass — to lift the debt ceiling that ignored their demands for strict spending cuts.

The group ultimately ended their blockade of the House floor after securing some promises from McCarthy and it appeared Republicans were moving on to other must-address priorities. Republicans tasked with handling legislation that sets the federal government’s budget were directed to meet Freedom Caucus demands for $130 billion in spending cuts — a futile exercise since Senate Republican appropriators have said they will set spending levels based on the agreement struck between the White House and McCarthy during debt ceiling negotiations.

But the week began with Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.) again proposing a vote to censure Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), using a procedural fast-track called a privileged resolution that brings the proposal directly to the House floor within 48 hours. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) followed with her own privileged resolution late Tuesday, unilaterally introducing articles of impeachment against President Biden.

Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) was one of several Freedom Caucus members who supported the blockade of the House floor earlier this month. But on Wednesday, he expressed frustration that Republicans were focused on issues tied to personality preferences and disagreements rather than debating substantive policy, pointing to last month’s fiscal fight. It was a feeling many of his Republican colleagues shared.

“We get to [consider] things like this, and now impeachments,” Buck said after voting present on a resolution censuring Schiff. “It’s just not what we’re here for. We should be striving to do better.”

Boebert’s resolution to impeach Biden, and calls by others such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to introduce more privileged resolutions to impeach members of Biden’s administration, in particular struck a nerve. Many Republicans are concerned that fast-tracking such votes goes against the far-right’s own demand to have the House function through “regular order,” meaning proposals such as Boebert’s must go through the committee process before reaching the floor. A privileged resolution bypasses that regular order.

“I have voted against impeachments in the past because of a lack of due process,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said before voting in support of the Schiff censure that was also a privileged resolution. “Something like that would need to be investigated, need to come out of a committee with that investigation, where the person that is being impeached has a chance to defend themselves, etc. And that’s not what’s happening,”

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), who barely won his GOP primary last year after voting to impeach President Donald Trump over his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, said charging someone with high crimes and misdemeanors is purposely “a high bar.”

“Just disagreeing with someone on their policy decisions doesn’t meet that,” he said.

After it became clear that an overwhelming majority of Republicans would vote down the impeachment resolution, leaders struck a deal with Boebert that would punt the effort. The House on Thursday will instead vote to send her resolution to the Homeland Security and Judiciary committees for further consideration, rather than moving the bill directly onto the floor.

During the GOP’s weekly conference meeting, McCarthy reminded his conference that they need to stay united to ensure they retain the majority next year. He used slides to present a visualized history of Republican House majorities since the 1940s, emphasizing that only two of the previous four GOP majorities lasted more than two years, according to two lawmakers in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal conversation.

“What majority do we want to be?” McCarthy asked his conference, according to lawmakers in the room — a long-lasting majority or a blip in history.

Republicans could either continue to force their swing-district colleagues to take possibly harmful votes and lose the majority, or allow their colleagues to continue investigating and drafting proposals in committees that will help them argue to voters why they deserve another term to finish the job. McCarthy also noted that ongoing investigations by the Oversight and Accountability Committee and the Judiciary panel are already looking into Biden’s record, and if anything rises to impeachment level, he would be the first to sign on.

Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) echoed the speaker, advocating against continued use of privileged resolutions because in part they aren’t traditionally a tool used by the majority party.

“It’s interesting because privileged motions are typically a tool of the minority, right?” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a moderate who represents a suburban Philadelphia district that Biden carried in 2020. “When you don’t control the floor, you try to force a vote on something. So I am puzzled as to why it’s being utilized by people in the majority.”

Many took McCarthy and his leadership team’s remarks as a direct challenge to Boebert, who had surprised her colleagues by putting forward the resolution to impeach Biden without informing leaders of her plan. Her move came hours after news that Biden’s son, Hunter, had reached a tentative plea agreement to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges and admit to the facts of a gun charge. Republicans had hoped to use the news to keep hammering their allegations that the Justice Department is biased, continuing a theme they invoked after Trump was indicted on federal charges for alleged mishandling of classified documents. Instead, Republicans are being forced to quell internal frustrations over actions that many believe threaten to step on their messaging and complicate the political calculation of members.

Fitzpatrick said that such votes shouldn’t concern swing-district lawmakers like him, “as long as you’re true to yourself, and you’re putting your country first, and you communicate with your people back home … do the right thing.”

But Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R), who warned during the first Trump impeachment of normalizing impeachment, faces the opposite problem as the sole at-large representative of staunchly conservative North Dakota, noting his voters largely support the far-right’s legislative actions.

“I don’t support the way this is being done at all. My base in North Dakota supports the hell out of it,” he said. “So if I have to [vote in a way to] protect this institution, I’ve got to go home and explain it to my base. … I don’t want my job bad enough to be a hypocrite to keep it.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

Comments are closed.