Rep. Victoria Spartz was hopping mad.
Two years ago, when the Democratic House ousted two Republicans from committees for glorifying violence against their colleagues, McCarthy (Calif.) railed against the removals as evidence of a “broken Congress.” Now, voters have given McCarthy the majority — and he is doing exactly that which he decried: He has already removed two Democrats from committees without due process, and he plans to evict a third.
“Speaker McCarthy needs to stop ‘bread and circuses’ in Congress and start governing for a change,” Spartz said in a statement objecting to the “charade” of kicking members off their committees.
It was an apt invocation of the Roman writer Juvenal’s lament 2,000 years ago that the people had abdicated their duties as citizens of the Republic in favor of “bread and circuses” provided by their imperial rulers.
Emperor McCarthy grinned when Spartz’s words were read to him this week. Asked how he would respond, he replied, “Not at all.”
In truth, the new majority doesn’t have much bread to dole out (aside from the free doughnuts and Chick-fil-A that Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) offered reporters this week in lieu of answers about his fabricated life story). But it has more clown acts than could fill the Circus Maximus.
In a column earlier this month, I referred to the growing number of “bomb throwers” in the House GOP caucus. It was more accurate than I knew.
Freshman Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) this week celebrated his appointment on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees by handing out grenades to members of Congress. He wrote in a note accompanying the munitions that “it is my pleasure to give you a 40mm grenade, made for a MK19 grenade launcher” (not included), as the Daily Mail’s Morgan Phillips first reported. Only at the bottom of the page would recipients find an asterisk labeling the weapon “inert.”
This is not Mills’s first stint as arms dealer: He previously claimed to have “sold tear gas used on Black Lives Matter protesters.”
When it comes to productivity, though, the new majority is so far unarmed. McCarthy berated the previous Congress for failing to deal with the “chaos on the southern border,” “out-of-control crime” and the economy. So what is he doing about those issues now?
As for crime, the new majority had to pull two pro-police bills from the floor over internal Republican disagreements.
As for the economy, Republicans are squabbling over a bill imposing a national sales tax, which McCarthy promised the far right he would bring to the floor.
And their plan to address “chaos on the southern border” has itself devolved into chaos.
Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) announced that the House Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing next week on “The Biden Border Crisis.” In case that’s too subtle, seven immigration hard-liners assembled in the House TV studio this week and alleged that President Biden is running “narco-slavery support programs.” Hopefully, Biden will tell us more about these exciting initiatives in his State of the Union address!
But the new majority isn’t actually doing anything about the border. The GOP border bill, which McCarthy promised to bring to the floor as a condition for securing the speakership, is now bogged down in intraparty disagreements. When the seven hard-liners were asked about the endangered legislation, Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) acknowledged: “I’m not sure where negotiations stand.”
Allow me to bring her up to speed.
Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, co-chair of the Republicans’ Congressional Hispanic Conference, complains that the GOP bill is “not Christian” and “very anti-American,” and he worries the party is being “hijacked” by those who would block all asylum seekers, who include unaccompanied children and victims of torture and human trafficking.
The bill’s author, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), retorted that the current system is what’s “un-Christian” and that “I’m tired of Republicans using rhetoric that is actually not addressing the problem.”
While Republicans have so far stalled on crime, the economy and the border, they are moving ahead rapidly with more pressing matters — such as Hunter Biden’s artwork.
Chairman James Comer (Ky.) of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee fired off a letter Wednesday demanding information from the Georges Bergès Gallery about paintings done by the president’s son — what the Wall Street Journal called a “mixture of ink and acrylic on metal, depicting abstract flowers and trees.”
In the letter, Comer (his training is in agriculture) played art appraiser, declaring prices for the younger Biden’s work “exorbitant.” He wants answers from Hunter Biden’s dealer (art, not drugs) by Feb. 8. That is also the day Comer’s committee plans to hold a hearing on another matter of national urgency: Hunter Biden’s laptop.
While House investigators probe the art world, others are doing considerable damage to music.
At a subcommittee hearing Tuesday on Ticketmaster, senators put on a groan-inducing concert of Taylor Swift lyrics. Chairman Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) quoted “All Too Well,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) forced a line from “Anti-Hero,” and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) inflicted more cringes than all others combined, quoting “Blank Space” (“a nightmare dressed like a daydream”), “Karma” and even “You Belong With Me” (saying of Klobuchar: “she’s cheer captain and I’m on the bleachers”).
I knew you were trouble when you walked in, Senator.
The next day, Santos, pursued by his round-the-clock media detail, went to Hill Country Barbecue for some karaoke. The embattled fabricator had a tough week, with new revelations that he claimed to have been the victim of an assassination attempt and a mugging on Fifth Avenue. My source in the bar says Santos chose to sing “I Will Survive” — but apparently lost his nerve.
Then, on Thursday, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) used a debate on energy policy to inject some Motown. “If the beautiful, wonderful Marvin Gaye were with us, he would be saying, ‘What’s going on?’”
I’ll tell you what’s going on. Lawmakers had better cease this reckless escalation of lyrics before it gets out of control. Otherwise, we might soon be setting the debt limit showdown to song.
House Republicans are saying they’re willing to risk default — an economic disaster — unless Biden agrees to cuts. But they won’t specify which cuts they want; Biden will just have to guess. “I want to look the president in the eye and tell me there’s not one dollar of wasteful spending in government,” McCarthy said, in his inimitable syntax.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already washed his hands of the looming disaster, saying no bipartisan debt limit deal the Senate reaches “could actually pass this particular House.”
But Taylor Swift offers wisdom on the debt limit.
For House Republicans manufacturing this crisis: “You play stupid games, you win stupid prizes.”
For the bomb throwers — sorry, grenade hurlers — who say a default wouldn’t be so bad: “I had a marvelous time ruining everything.”
And for a country spiraling toward needless catastrophe: “The story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now.”
In an account of the tender friendship that has blossomed between McCarthy and Rep. Marjorie “Jewish Space Lasers” Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), the New York Times had this touching remark McCarthy made to a friend: “I will never leave that woman.” (Suggested Swift lyric: Darling, you’re the one I want.)
McCarthy has displayed his affection with gifts, seating Greene not just on Comer’s Oversight Committee but also on the select committee probing covid-19’s origins. Greene already has ideas on the subject: She has speculated that NFL player Damar Hamlin’s collapse and the death of Diamond and Silk’s Lynnette Hardaway were both vaccine-induced.
“It’s time to reveal the truth,” Greene tweeted after securing the seat. Once she reveals those, she can probe other “truths” recently floated by Tucker Carlson and the Fox News conspiracy club. Carlson has recently suggested that cigarette smoking is good for you (“nicotine frees your mind”), and that M&M’s “spokescandies” were part of a woke plot.
Greene’s appointment is part of a wholesale takeover of key committees by the far right. The House Freedom Caucus, about 20 percent of the GOP caucus, now controls 38 percent of the Oversight Committee, 44 percent of the Judiciary and coronavirus panels, and 50 percent of the “weaponization of the federal government” select committee, the Post’s Aaron Blake calculates. The far right also has effective veto power over the House Rules Committee, which determines what goes to the House floor.
With so many committees overloaded with loons, it’s but a matter of time until things blow up. In an embrace of mayhem, the National Republican Congressional Committee adopted as its new slogan “bring the tiger,” Politico’s Olivia Beavers reports. That’s a reference to a mock lip-reading video of McCarthy’s famous fight on the House floor this month with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) in which McCarthy says “I brought the tiger.”
Yep. He brought the tiger, and now he must ride it. This is life in the circus.