Republicans plan to use any means to undermine democratic governance and values

Bob Sheak, January 20, 2023

The focus of this post?

The focus is on the narrow Republican midterm victory in the U.S. House of Representatives and how this increasingly right-wing party plans and is already acting to advance its power in ways to buttress an extremist, anti-democratic agenda. I will refer to 7 examples. First, however, there is a consideration of both the good and bad aspects of the midterm elections. Then: (1) some facts on these elections; (2) the implications of Kevin McCarthy’s controversial fight to become House Speaker; (3) how the McCarthy and House Republicans plan to use and are using their power to undermine democratic governance.

Generally, what to make of the 2022 midterm elections – the good and the bad

Mark Z. Barabak, a reporter for nearly 45 years, discusses the midterm elections and sees both good and bad effects, though democracy continues to be on “the precipice” (https://latimes.com/politics/story/2022-11-22/midterm-elections-deniers-lost-democracy-wins).

The Good News

It was good that there “were no major glitches in the casting or counting of tens of millions of ballots”; there “was no political violence; “voters rejected several high-profile candidates who parroted the ‘Big Lie’ about a stolen 2020 election or who set out to hijack the balloting machinery so they could manipulate the result of future elections”’ and “most of those defeated candidates accepted their loss rather than emulate the Republican whiner-in-chief, former President Trump.

Furthermore, in “the battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, as well as Arizona, voters rejected election-denying candidates for governor.” Big Lie proponents lost Senate races in Arizona, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Additionally, “election deniers lost secretary of state races in the swing states of Arizona, Nevada and Michigan as well as Democratic-leaning Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico and Vermont.”

According to a survey for the Associated Press, more than 4 in 10 of those interviewed “considered the future of democracy to be a pressing concern, just behind inflation. That helps explain why Democrats did better than expected and so many election-denying, Trump-embracing Republicans were defeated.”

The Bad News

“Election deniers won races for secretary of state in Alabama, Indiana, South Dakota and Wyoming. While none of those solidly Republican states are likely to determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential race, that’s still bad news that raises doubts about the conduct and integrity of elections in those states.

“Also, two election-denying Senate candidates were elected, Ted Budd in North Carolina and J.D. Vance in Ohio. In Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson was narrowly reelected even after he schemed to present a fake, pro-Trump set of 2020 electorsto Vice President Mike Pence, whose duty it was to certify Joe Biden’s victory.

“Furthermore, dozens of election-denying House candidates will soon join the scores of Republicans who voted against certifying President Biden’s 2020 victory. And a number of local office seekers were chosen for positions overseeing elections at the city and county levels.” Withal Trump, who has a record of lying while in the White House, is still an influential force in, if not the leader of, the Republican Party and has announced that he will run in the 2024 presidential election. His leadership is grounded in his loyal electoral base of tens of millions of Americans.

The surprisingly close electoral results of the 2022 midterm elections for the U.S. Congress

No “red wave” – but Republicans control House

Many commentators and experts expected a “red wave,” that is, a vote that gave Republicans decisive control of both chambers of the U.S. Congress. As it turned out there was no red wave. Indeed, Democrats and their two Independent supporters won control of the Senate by one vote. At the same time, they lost the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans, who ended up with 222 seats compared to the Democrats 213. It takes 218 or more seats to have a majority and the opportunity to elect a Speaker. So, the Republicans have just 4 seats (222 – 218 = 4) to have control. (https://www.politico.com/2022-election/results/house).

The controversial path to the election of House Speaker

Subsequently, after 15 rounds of voting by House members, Republican and “election denier” Kevin McCarthy narrowly won the House Speaker’s job. He was only able to win after he offered a host of concessions to members of the House’s Freedom Caucus, an extreme right-wing faction of the House Republican Party. (I’ll identify the concessions below in this post.)

Kevin McCarthy cuts deals to become Speaker

Annie Karni reports on the tense and long-drawn-out process of selecting the Speaker

(https://nytimes.com/2023/01/06/us/politics/house-speaker-vote-mccarthy.html).

“Representative Kevin McCarthy of California won election early Saturday as House speaker in a historic five-day, 15-ballot floor fight, after giving major concessions to right-wing holdouts and weathering a dramatic late-night setback that underscored the limits of his power over the new Republican majority.

“Mr. McCarthy clawed his way to victory by cutting a deal that won over a sizable contingent of ultraconservative lawmakers on the 12th and 13th votes earlier in the day, and then wearing down the remaining holdouts in a tense session that dragged on past midnight, ultimately winning with a bare majority, after a spectacle of arm-twisting and rancor on the House floor.

“The protracted fight foreshadowed how difficult it would be for him to govern with an exceedingly narrow majority and an unruly hard-right faction bent on slashing spending and disrupting business in Washington. The speakership struggle that crippled the House before it had even opened its session suggested that basic tasks such as passing government funding bills or financing the federal debt would prompt epic struggles over the next two years.”

McCarthy is already in sync with the “sedition caucus”

In an article for Common Dreams on January 7, 2023,Jon Queally argues this point (https://commondreams.org/news/mccarthy-elected-house-speaker). McCarthy reflected his hard right-wing, extremist position when he “made dangerous concessions to the most fringe members of the House in exchange for their support in his effort to become Speaker.” This is not so surprising. Queally quotes Sean Eldridge, president of Stand Up America that “Kevin McCarthy has repeatedly put his personal ambitions ahead of our democracy.” For example, McCarthy “voted against certifying President Biden’s victory and obstructed the investigation into the January 6 attack on our country.” McCarthy is hardly alone. Eldridge also points out “that over 70% of the current GOP conference in the House ‘are election deniers, including every single member of GOP leadership.’”

The Speaker’s duties

The speaker has many responsibilities and ordinarily a great deal of power. Here’s Ballotpedia’s summary of the Speaker’s duties (https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Speaker_of_the_house).

—————-

Presides over the House

Administers the Oath of Office to House Members

Communicates with the President of the United States and the U.S. Senate

Leads his or her party conference or caucus

Chairs his or her party’s steering committee, which is involved in the selection of party members for standing committees

Nominates chairs and members of the Committee on Rules and the Committee on House Administration.


The Speaker also appoints:[2]

Speakers pro tempore

The chair who presides over the Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union

Members to House-Senate conference committees

A Member to the Committee on the Budget

Select committees

Certain House staff

The Speaker recognizes Members to speak on the House Floor or make motions during Floor proceedings. The Speaker makes many important rulings and decisions in the House. The Speaker may debate or vote, but typically only occasionally does so. The Speaker also serves as an ex officio member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

By statute, the Speaker is second in line, after the Vice President of the United States, to succeed the President.[2][3]

——————

Voting on the Republican-constructed House Rules package

Jeremy Herb and his colleagues at CNN report on the House vote on the House rules “package,” which occurred the day after the election for Speaker (https://cnn.com/2023/01/09/politics/house-rules-package-vote/index.html). Here’s some of what they report.

“House Republicans on Monday approved a rules package for the 118th Congress, in what marked the first test of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ability to navigate his slim Republican majority.

“The rules were passed on a 220-213 mostly party-line vote, with Texas Republican Rep. Tony Gonzales joining all the Democrats in voting against the measure.

“McCarthy and his allies had to scramble to ensure they had enough support for the rules package after McCarthy’s concessions to GOP hardliners to win the gavel last week frustrated some centrist House Republicans. With little margin for error – and the vote seen as McCarthy’s first test of whether he can govern – GOP leaders left little to chance.”

Examples of how the House Republicans are already using their power to the detriment of democracy

#1 – McCarthy’s concessions to the most extreme members in his conference make legislating very difficult

Arianna Coghill, writing for Mother Jones identifies the Concessions Kevin McCarthy had to make to become House Speaker, Mother Jones, Jan 7, 2023 (https://motherjones.com/politics/2023/01/klevin-mccarthy-house-speaker-concessions-republicans). The concessions will make it yet harder to reach agreement within the Republican House caucus, let alone working out compromises with Democrats

———–

Any member can call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair

A McCarthy-aligned super-PAC (the Congressional Leadership Fund) agreed to not spend in open Republican primaries in safe seats

The House will hold votes on key conservative bills, including a balanced budget amendment, congressional term limits, and border security

Efforts to raise the nation’s debt ceiling must be paired with spending cuts

Move 12 appropriations bills individually, instead of passing separate bills to fund government operations

More Freedom Caucus representation on committees, including the influential House Rules Committee

Cap discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, which would amount to lower levels for defense and domestic programs

72 hours to review bills before they come to floor

Give members the ability to offer more amendments on the House floor

Create an investigative committee to probe the “weaponization” of the federal government

Restore the Holman rule, which can be used to reduce the salary of government officials

——————-

Sasha Abramsky considers the potentially negative effects of “McCarthy’s Concessions to MAGA Diehards” in an Jan. 14 article for Truthout

(https://truthout.org/articles/mccarthys-concessions-to-maga-diehards-have-paved-the-way-to-brutal-austerity). He observes that “McCarthy has signed too many promissory notes, and now there are too many liens on his speaker’s gavel.”

For example, Abramsky writes, “Once the levee had been breached on the notion that a single member could trigger another vote for speaker, it was no surprise that a flood would follow. Sure enough, the demands regarding new House rules came pouring in — rules that would gut the ability of the House to investigate its own via ethics committees; rules promoting a series of rolling investigations not only into Biden and his family, but also into the most basic law enforcement and judicial institutions of government; rules making it harder to raise taxes and easier to cut them; rules gutting funding for the Internal Revenue Service; rules encouraging legislation that would turbo-charge fossil fuel extraction in the U.S.; rules making it harder to increase funding for mandated programs such as Social Security and Medicare; rules forcing a vote every time the government wanted to increase its borrowing power — making it far more likely that, at some point down the road, the right wing of the GOP could walk the U.S. to, and perhaps beyond, the edge of debt-default as a way to force the government to cut spending on social services, on welfare, on education, on environmental policy, and other areas that have long been in the GOP’s crosshairs.”

Abramsky adds: “If McCarthy tries to embrace any sort of bipartisan legislation, individual congressmembers, such as Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, Paul Gosar or Lauren Boebert, can immediately — and repeatedly — hold his feet to the fire by triggering what would essentially be recall votes against him. Even if they don’t win these votes, the MAGA-diehards, most of whom came into office from 2016 onward with the express intention of destroying existing governing institutions, can entirely sabotage the functioning of Congress by swamping it with frivolous leadership contests. These would be similar in intent to Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), usually libel or defamation claims brought by corporations against social justice activists, journalists and watchdog groups, and aimed not at ultimately securing judicial wins but at wasting huge amounts of the advocates’ time, money and resources.”

#2 – Republican threats to reject any increase in the U.S. debt ceiling unless there are deep government spending on non-military parts of the nation’s budget. Their goal: to balance the budget

Most of the time, increases in the debt ceiling have many times in the past been approved by both Republican and Democratic Presidents and Congresses. Wikipedia offers the following evidence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_United_).

“The debt ceiling was raised 74 times from March 1962 to May 2011, including 18 times under Ronald Reagan, eight times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush, and five times under Barack Obama. In practice, the debt ceiling has never been reduced, even though the public debt itself may have reduced.”

Republican resistance this time

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich confirms that the right-wing Freedom Caucus in the House “got a promise from McCarthy that he would not approve a simple increase in the debt ceiling unless spending was held back at 2022 levels — which, with more than 7 percent inflation, would require huge cuts in everything from defense spending to Social Security and Medicare.” They have since decided that there would be no cuts in military spending. If McCarthy breaks his promise to support wholesale cuts in federal government spending, any member of the Freedom Caucus can move to remove him from the Speakership (https://commondreams.org/opinion/republican-party-plan-for-social-security).

Reich thinks that the extremist Republican Party will not succeed. But the coming fight over raising the debt ceiling seems likely “to become the defining battle over the next six to nine months. (In 2011, the mere possibility that the U.S. might not be able to pay its bills rattled markets worldwide.)”

A Republican “prioritization plan”

Nevertheless, according to a story by Jeff Stein and his team at the Washington post, House Republicans have already prepared an emergency plan for breaching the debt limit (https://washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2023/01/13/debt-ceiling-gop-plan). The journalists report: “The plan, previously unreported, was part of the private deal reached this month to resolve the standoff between House conservatives and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over the election of a House speaker. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), a leading conservative who helped broker the deal, told The Washington Post that McCarthy agreed to pass a payment prioritization plan by the end of the first quarter of the year.”  

“In the preliminary stages of being drafted, the GOP proposal would call on the Biden administration to make only the most critical federal payments if the Treasury Department comes up against the statutory limit on what it can legally borrow. For instance, the plan is almost certain to call on the department to keep making interest payments on the debt, according to four people familiar with the internal deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. House Republicans’ payment prioritization plan may also stipulate that the Treasury Department should continue making payments on Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits, as well as funding the military, two of the people said.” Or they may not.

Jake Johnson reports on Jan. 14 that the extremist members of the Republican House conference have not finally made up their minds, and have not given up on wanting to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, and other key government programs (https://commondreams.org/news/gop-pentagon-social-security-medicare). He writes: “Republicans who have pledged to use their narrow majority in the House to pursue steep federal spending cuts have sent a clear message in recent days: The bloated Pentagon budget is safe, but Social Security, Medicare, and other key government programs are not.”

Paul Krugman raises the question of  “Why Republican Politicians Still Hate Medicare” and government-supported social programs geneally (https://nytimes.com/2023/01/12/opinion/why-republican-politicians-still-hate-medicare.html). He notes “It isn’t possible to achieve huge reductions in the budget deficit, while at the same time depriving the I.R.S. of the resources it needs to go after tax cheats, without deep cuts in popular social programs. The House Republicans will refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless spending on Social Security and Medicare are “slashed.” But that’s not all they want to cut.

“CNN has obtained a screenshot of a slide presented at a closed-door Republican meeting on Tuesday [Jan. 10]. The first bullet point calls for balancing the budget within 10 years, which is mathematically impossible without deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The second calls for reforms to “mandatory spending” — which is budget-speak for those same programs. And the final point calls for refusing to raise the debt limit unless these demands are met.” If the right-wing Republicans in the House (that’s virtually all of them) achieve their goals, it will affect tens of millions of Americans. If the desired Republican reforms are instituted, it could have political ramifications that benefit Democratic candidates in the 2024 elections, but this would be only after many Americans have been negatively affected.

#3 – Lowering taxes on corporations and billionaires

As President, one of Trump’s most lauded achievements was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was passed along partisan lines in 2017 and went into effect in 2018. In an article published Jan. 14, 2023 in Common Dreams, Steven Wamhoff argues that this tax “reform” legislation was a boon to corporations (https://commondreams.org/opinion/gao-report-trumpl-tax-cuts).

He writes:

“The share of these companies who paid zero in federal income tax rose from 22 percent in 2014 to 34 percent in 2018, the first year that the Trump tax law was in effect.

“The tax cuts signed into law by former President Trump at the end of 2017 were a boon for profitable corporations, according to a new report released by the Government Accountability Office. It finds the average effective federal income tax rate paid by large, profitable corporations fell to 9 percent in the first year that the Trump tax law was in effect, and the share of such companies paying nothing at all rose to 34 percent that year.

“The GAO analysis presents many different types of figures, but all show the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was an unprecedented gift to corporations. For example, it finds that the share of all corporations paying no federal income taxes was 67 percent in 2018 and had not changed much over the years. But that is not so surprising because that figure includes tiny companies and companies reporting losses, which are not expected to pay income taxes. (The federal corporate income tax is, after all, a tax on profits, not losses).

Republicans now want more tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy. Brett Wilkins reports that Progressive U.S. lawmakers on Monday took House Republicans to task after the Congressional Budget Office said the erstwhile deficit hawks’ first bill before the 118th Congress—a measure critics say is meant to “protect wealthy and corporate tax cheats”—will swell the federal deficit by more than $100 billion” (https://commondreams.org/news/2023/01/14/congressional-budget-office). Wilkins quotes Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.): “They all run on reducing the deficit and now the House GOP’s first… bill will increase the deficit by $114 billion.”

Wilkins cites an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that the Republican estimated that the euphemistically named Family and Small Business Taxpayer Protection Act would “decrease outlays by $71 billion and decrease receipts by $186 billion over the 2023-2032 period.” He also quotes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.):

“Today, Republicans in Congress demonstrated their commitment to ‘fiscal responsibility,'” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sardonically tweeted. “The first bill advanced by the GOP adds $114 billion to the deficit—by allowing the super-wealthy to cheat their taxes while everyone else pays. Corporate lobbyists are popping champagne.”

#4 – Attempts to make the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) friendlier to the rich and powerful

One of the first bills to be introduced by Speaker Kevin McCarthy is designed to repeal Democratically-supported funding for the IRS that was intended to help audit the wealthiest Americans, according to a report by Julia Conley (https://commondreams.org/news/kevin-mccartht-irs). She notes that “the proposal little chance of passing in the Senate, but could be used as leverage by the GOP later this year when Congress is expected to debate raising the debt ceiling.”

Last year, the Democrats’ Inflation Adjustment Act was passed, including “about $80 billion to be used to increase audits of households making $400,000 per year or more.” A 2021 poll by the University of Maryland found that this funding was supported by two-thirds of Americans. Nonetheless, Republicans oppose any effort to increase the resources of the IRS. They have falsely claimed this legislation pushed by President Joe Biden has provided the agency with an “army of 87,000 new IRS agents” who “will be coming for you—with 710,000 new audits for Americans who earn less than $75,000.” McCarthy’s plan would, according to ACLU communications strategist Gillian Branstetter”incentivize the agency to target poor people,” for whom audits are less expensive for the federal government because they lack the resources to engage in a legal battle with the IRS. It would also make it easier for rich people to cheat on their taxes,” said political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen.

#5 – Eliminating House Ethics Committee –

Fred Wertheimer, an American attorney, lobbyist, and activist, considers the GOP’s elimination of House Ethics Committee. He is known for his work on campaign finance reform (https://commondreams.org/opinion/house-ethics-committee-gop).

According to Wertheimer, one of the first orders to business by the new Republican-dominated House was to propose a rule that would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), an effective House Office that has been key for more than a decade to House ethics rules being enforced.” “House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opposed the establishment of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) in 2008, and Republicans have repeatedly targeted the body in the years since its creation.”

Wertheimer continues:

“Without presenting any case against OCE—because there is none—House Republicans, including the 39 Republican freshmen, acted to cripple the agency for only one apparent reason: to enable House Republicans to take actions, free from any oversight or accountability for breaking House ethics rules.”

Wertheimer discusses some of the potential consequences. For example: “The change came as a number of House Republicans—including newly elected Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.)—are facing growing scrutiny for alleged ethics violations that range from potentially running afoul of campaign finance laws to defying congressional subpoenas issued as part of the January 6 investigation.”

“The changes enacted by the House GOP on Monday impose an eight-year term limit on the eight members of the OCE, a change that will force out three of the four Democrats currently sitting on the board.

“The new rules will also require OCE to hire all of its staff for the 118th Congress within a period of 30 days, a restriction that outside ethics watchdogs say ‘essentially limits any hiring for the office, including investigative staffers, to an impossibly brief period that would make it extremely difficult to rigorously assess candidates for these high-stakes jobs.’”

“Additionally,” notes the Campaign Legal Center, “the 30-day hiring period applies to the entire 118th Congress, meaning that regardless of when a vacancy at the OCE occurs under this rule, the position cannot be filled.”

“Any new hires would require the approval of at least four OCE board members.”

#6 – The re-inventing of the dark days of “Joe McCarthy”

Republicans are referring to the “Church Committee,” comparing, according to James Risen, a new committee to launch wide-ranging investigations into what they allege are the ways in which the federal government has abused the rights of conservatives, to “the historic Church Committee of the mid-1970s, which conducted landmark investigations of the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, and the rest of the intelligence community, none of which had previously been subject to real oversight (https://theintercept.com/2023/01/12/house-jim-jordan-church-committee). But, Risen points out, “The [current] panel is widely expected to become a pro-Trump star chamber, investigating the officials and organizations that have previously investigated Trump, including the FBI and the Justice Department.”

It is more akin to the Joe McCarthy hearings of the late 1940s and early 1950s, which were aimed at identifying alleged “communists” in the State Department and other parts of the federal government, and encouraging the firing of those who were so identified. The Church committee subsequently debunked the findings of the Joe McCarthy hearings, but only after the lives of many civil servants, writers, and filmmakers had been smeared and stigmatized. The Jordan subcommittee is in the tradition of the long discredited hearings held by Joe McCarthy. Among other targets, the Jim Jordan committee seems likely to investigate the House January 6 committee, which operated when the Democrats controlled the chamber — “and referred Jordan to the House Ethics Committee for his involvement in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.”

Jeffrey C. Isaac points out that the “committee on the weaponization of the federal government against citizens is a very serious, and ominous, initiative that is clearly intended to counter, and undermine, the now-terminated January 6 Committee” ((https://commondreams.org/opinion/new-mccarthyism-is-coming). He continues.

“The new committee, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee, will be chaired by Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan. As the New York Times reports, the Republican initiative will grant Jordan extensive power:

authority to subpoena the Justice Department for information about the special counsel inquiry into Mr. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents, along with other politically charged matters like an open tax investigation into President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden . . . [it] would also grant Mr. Jordan’s panel the power to receive the same highly classified information that intelligence agencies make available to their oversight committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.”

#7 – Extremists in key House committee assignments

Sharon Zhang takes up this issue in a Jan. 18 article for Truthout (https://truthout.org/articles/a-majority-of-republicans-new-committee-chairs-are-election-deniers). Her main point: “Analyses show that a majority of the House Republicans’ newly chosen committee chairs – people who will have a huge hand in setting the priorities for the House over the next two years – have participated in the extremely dangerous and anti-democratic GOP practice of election denial.” She refers as evidence to a study by HuffPost.

“As first pointed out by HuffPost, 11 of the 17 new committee chairs were among the 147 Republicans who voted against certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Further, 12 of the new chairs had signed onto an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in 2020 seeking to overturn the will of the voters in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where a majority of voters voted for President Joe Biden.”

They “will be in charge of committees that will help write and pass legislation and hold hearings concerning the climate crisis, immigration rights, social and budgetary priorities, and the future of U.S. democracy itself – a future that they wanted to undermine in 2020 and on January 6, 2021, in trying to carry through Donald Trump’s coup attempt.” Zhang names them.

“Bottom of Form

The election denying chairs in question are Agriculture Chair Glenn Thompson (Pennsylvania); Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers (Alabama); Budget Chair Jodey Arrington (Texas); Education and Workforce Chair Virginia Foxx (North Carolina); Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Washington); Homeland Security Chair Mark Green (Tennessee); Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (Ohio); Natural Resources Chair Bruce Westerman (Arkansas); Science, Space and Technology Chair Frank Lucas (Oklahoma); Small Business Chair Roger Williams (Texas); Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Sam Graves (Missouri); Veterans’ Affairs Chair Mike Bost (Illinois); and Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (Missouri).

“It is alarming that Republicans would give people who have shown themselves to be vehemently anti-democratic and willing to ignore the will of millions of voters such power in the House.”

Zhang finds Jim Jordan’s appointment to the chair of the Judiciary Committee particularly “insidious.” She writes: “Jordan appeared to have played a key role in supporting the January 6 attack on the Capitol and ended up being one of the four House Republicans who were referred to the House Ethics Committee for their refusal to comply with the January 6 committee’s subpoenas.” She also refers to how “Republican leaders have voted unanimously to allow fascist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to serve on the Committee on Homeland Security, which was created to protect the U.S. against terrorist attacks – not unlike the January 6 attack on the seat of the U.S. government, which Greene has boasted she would have ‘won’ if she were in charge of it.”

In addition, “Greene was also chosen to serve on the House Oversight Committee, one of the most powerful committees in the House, which oversees federal agencies and officials that Greene has spread debunked conspiracy theories about. Other far right Republicans like Representatives Paul Gosar (Arizona), Scott Perry (Pennsylvania) and Lauren Boebert (Colorado) were also picked to serve on the oversight committee.”

Ashley Parker and Michael Scherer delve further into outlandish statements made by Greene in recent years

(https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/01/14/marjorie-taylor-greene-mccarthy-republicans).

“In February 2021, Democrats and 11 Republicans stripped Greene from two committees for past social media posts, including falsely claiming that some mass shootings were ‘false flag’ attacks meant to curb Second Amendment rights; that the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were a government conspiracy; and that a Jewish cabal had used space lasers to ignite a deadly California wildfire. She also came under scrutiny for a slew of anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist views she expressed before joining Congress.”

Philip Bump reports on other incredulous statements by Greene (https://washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/10/03/republicans-greene-trump).

“This is the candidate who rose to national attention in 2020 for her embrace of QAnon, who has spread I-know-better-than-you claims about 9/11 and the 2012 mass shooting in Sandy Hook, Conn., and, perhaps most infamously, suggested that wildfires were caused intentionally by a space-based laser. Just this weekend, she claimed that Democrats want to kill Republicans.”

Concluding thoughts

So, what occurred in the 2022 midterm election and in the post-election calamitous House Republican efforts to accommodate the most extreme elements of the party leave the House in uncharted territory. One thing is clear: The Republicans are pursuing policies and practices that weaken American democracy. And they appear to enjoy this antagonistic, if not nihilistic, role.

The Republican Party remains Trump’s party or at least is a very Trumpian party. And this influence rests in the support Trump gets from this seemingly unquestioning electoral base of some tens of millions of Americans. Trump did not create this multifaceted MAGA movement, but his political fortunes and influence depend on it.

Even now, he is able to use his influence to raise funds, to influence who runs for office, to continue to spout the “big lie” about how the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” from him; to use social media and Fox News to propagate falsehoods favorable to his interests; to promote a right-wing agenda emphasizing low taxes, harsh and restrictive immigration policy, deregulation, and privatization; to advance a hyper nationalistic and militaristic foreign policy; and more.

In this unhinged political context, we should remember that the House Republicans operate under the shadow of Trump.

As discussed early in this post, there is some good news. The Republicans did not do as well in the 2022 midterms as expected. And a majority of Americans are concerned about the attacks on democracy, Social Security and Medicare, reproductive rights, tax equity, and want a government that does not generate chaos and economic hardship for most Americans, while Republicans cater to the mega corporations and rich. With luck, the majority will prevail.

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