The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion There are no moderate House Republicans

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) speaks to supporters in Mount Pleasant, S.C., on June 14. (Meg Kinnard/AP)
4 min

Listen to the mainstream media’s coverage of House Republicans, and you might think there is a mass of “normal” Republicans who do not buy into election denial, who are not apologists for former president Donald Trump, and who understand that the party’s crazy talk and election conspiracy theories contributed to its historic underperformance in the 2022 midterms.

The mystery: Where are these people hiding?

Prime suspects would be the 18 Republicans from districts that Joe Biden won in 2020, such as Reps. David Schweikert (Ariz.), Don Bacon (Neb.) and Thomas H. Kean (N.J.). Yet every single one of them voted 15 times to make Kevin McCarthy, an election denier, the speaker of the House.

Every single one of them also voted for the rules package that the House passed this week, which sets up a standoff over the debt limit, creates a committee to “investigate” ongoing criminal cases and hobbles the Office of Congressional Ethics. And they didn’t bat an eye over reports that McCarthy (Calif.) promised to give more seats on the Rules Committee to MAGA radicals. Pretty immoderate behavior.

Occasionally, members such as Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.) declare that it would be difficult to work with extreme members such as Rep. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), whom she called a “fraud” on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. She also questioned concessions McCarthy made to the party’s hard-liners to become speaker, such as his promise to cap spending at 2022 levels, which would amount to a $75 billion cut in defense spending. She even considered withholding her vote for the House rules package over the issue. Yet, in the end, she voted for the package all the same.

Then came the vote on Monday to repeal the $80 billion boost in funding for the Internal Revenue Service that Congress passed last year. Getting rid of this money would empower tax cheats and add some $115 billion to the deficit over the next decade. Yet every Republican voted for it. Again, there was no difference between how faux moderates and the worst of the election-denying extremists voted.

It should be clear now that these “normal” Republicans have deceived voters. Kean, for example, ran in the mold of his famous father, the moderate former New Jersey governor. And Bacon told The Post last month that moderates in the party “have to flex our muscles a little bit more and say, ‘We’re going to govern America.’” He added: "There’s a small number that want their way or the highway. Well, that’s how we fail. We can’t let 2 percent or 3 percent drive the whole Congress.”

But these two enable the extremists. All the time.

Likewise, a slew of Republicans are members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, but they seem to be part of the problem. Consider Rep. Young Kim (Calif.), who in her profile on the caucus’s website declares, “I came to Congress to break through the partisan gridlock and get things done.” Given that she refused to impeach Trump, backed McCarthy and regularly votes with the extreme right, that statement is about as credible as Rep. George Santos’s résumé.

Rarely if ever do the media grill these (im)moderate members on their enabling of the far right. Frankly, reporters do a disservice to the voters by characterizing them as somehow more sensible than the Freedom Caucus crazies. With the House as closely divided as it is, it would take only a few of them to defeat radical measures. Yet time and again, they cave.

Ultimately, this is the voters’ fault. They should have known when they cast ballots to reelect “moderate” incumbents that their voting records don’t match their rhetoric. Yet they sent them to Congress anyway — and often complain that Congress doesn’t get anything done. When 2024 rolls around, they should kick out members who voted to empower Freedom Caucus extremism. That would constitute real problem-solving.