The House vote later today on whether to boot Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) from her committee assignments is — what else? — another key test of how Republicans see their party’s relationship with former president Donald Trump and the millions of voters looking to him for political guidance.
There’s no reason to think that an overwhelming majority of the House GOP will not close ranks behind the freshman firebrand, who has peddled all manner of outlandish conspiracy theories and extremist views.
Republicans want to cast this not as an internal party identity crisis but as a duel with external forces: A fight with Democrats who set up the vote to strip Greene’s committee assignments, a fight with a mainstream media their voters revile, and a fight against “cancel culture” efforts to punish her for embracing the QAnon ideology the FBI deems a potential domestic terrorism threat and seemingly endorsing calls to kill Democrats.
“They’re not protecting her — they’re fighting the other side,” Brendan Buck, who served as a senior adviser to former House speakers Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and John Boehner (R-Ohio), said of House Republicans.
Buck said some foes of kicking Greene off her committees “perhaps reasonably” worry about the precedent of the majority party booting a member of the minority party from such appointments.
“Most of them, though, would channel their voters and see it as fighting ‘cancel culture’ and the left, and not surrendering those who want to silence them,” he added. “Just gotta fight and you’re in good standing these days.”
Buck’s observation speaks to a political shift — evident for decades but accelerated by social media — that puts a premium on battling ideological opponents over legislating. For every earnest lawmaker hoping to make America better, there’s a sentient YouTube comment section drafting their next theatrically incendiary statement in a town car on the way to their next cable tv hit.
A remarkable new study from the Pew Research Center, made public this week, may also provide clues to the fight-or-die tone from many lawmakers, with large numbers of Americans more worried about Washington’s influence over their lives than before.
As it has in other transition years, Pew asked Americans whether people like them will gain influence, lose influence, or not be affected by the election of President Biden. The January 2021 results show 24 percent said they would gain influence, 39 percent saw no effect, and 36 percent said they would lose influence.
A roughly comparable Pew survey four years ago found 40 percent said people like themselves would lose influence from Trump taking office; 27 percent predicted a gain; and 31 percent saw no effect.
What a contrast from 2009, when 47 percent of respondents thought they would gain clout in Barack Obama’s America, 18 percent predicted a decline, and 29 percent said they would not be affected. Or 1993, when gain-lose-unaffected ran 43 percent, 22 percent, 27 percent. (George W. Bush’s numbers in 2001 were more muddled, with 35 percent gainers and 26 percent losers).
In 2021, it’s notable that 50 percent of evangelical Christians say they will lose influence. White evangelicals have been a bedrock of support for Trump. Among those who are or lean Republican, 66 percent percent say people like themselves will lose influence, just 7 percent see a gain, and 27 percent say they won’t be affected. Men? Forty-one percent of GOP-aligned voters forecast they’ll lose influence.
That’s a lot of Republican voters worried that they’ll lose the “fight.”
And it’s fuel for the identity crisis ravaging Washington Republicans.
One of the most well-known names in establishment conservatism, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), easily survived a vote last night to remain as the No. 3 House Republican after being criticized for voting to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Cheney prevailed after a tense four-hour House GOP meeting yesterday, in a 145-61 vote by secret ballot, a format sparing individual lawmakers from potential retribution. (In contrast, just 10 House Republicans had voted to impeach Trump, while 139 voted to overturn the election.)
At the same closed-door meeting, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane report, “Greene had received an ovation of her own after expressing contrition for some of her most outrageous comments made on social media.
“She also, according to Republicans in the room, apologized for putting her colleagues in a difficult spot. The Republicans spoke on the condition of anonymity to relay the contents of a private meeting,” they report.
Greene has refused to apologize publicly, tweeting the below this morning:
Greene’s House Education and Labor Committee assignment has drawn particular focus because, prior to taking office, she had suggested gun-control advocates staged mass school shootings. She also questioned whether the Pentagon was really attacked on 9/11 and espoused the false conspiracy theory that a Satan-worshiping cabal of Democratic and Hollywood elite, protected by the media, traffic children and drink their victims’ blood.
The job of bridging the chasm between establishment Republicans and the new breed has fallen to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has underlined the party’s strong showing in 2020 congressional elections and predicts even better showings down the road. McCarthy has also condemned QAnon and other ravings but then gone to Mar-a-Lago to pay homage to Trump, whom he erratically blames for inciting the Jan. 6 riots.
“This Republican Party's a very big tent,” McCarthy told reporters last night.
“Everyone's invited in. And you look at the last election, we continue to grow — and in two years we'll be in the majority.”
That puts him at odds with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who declared Monday: “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and our country.”
What’s happening now
McConnell this morning congratulated Cheney for retaining her leadership position but had nothing to say about Greene. Asked his reaction to Wednesday’s closed-door meeting on the other side of the Capitol, McConnell said: “I congratulate Liz Cheney on a landslide victory. It must be very satisfying to her, and it was a great win.” He declined to answer questions about Greene getting to keep her committee assignments, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis report.
Former Ohio health director Amy Acton signaled interest in retiring GOP Sen. Rob Portman's seat. Acton, who gained prominence during the early phases of the pandemic and became a target of protests, said she’s stepping down from her current role at a nonprofit foundation “to carefully consider how I can best be of service at this crucial time, Wagner reports.
The Proud Boys may have planned the Jan. 6 Capitol breach in retaliation against police for the stabbing of one of their members at an earlier march, the FBI said. Social media posts by a Washington state member of the far-right group indicate that he and others made plans to organize a group that would attempt to overwhelm police barricades and breach the Capitol on Jan. 6, prosecutors alleged, Spencer S. Hsu reports. The man, Ethan Nordean, and others appeared motivated in part by what they thought to be insufficient police response to the stabbing of one of their members who attended a pro-Trump demonstration in D.C. in December.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced the nomination, 18-4, of Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Thomas-Greenfield won praise this morning from senators on both sides of the aisle, including the top Republican on the committee, Sen. James Risch (Idaho), Wagner reports.
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Lunchtime reads from The Post
- “Stalking ISIS,” by Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim: “With the group’s self-declared caliphate ousted from Iraq and then Syria, the need for U.S. airstrikes and ground troops has diminished, and Iraqi security forces are taking the lead on the next phase of the battle. This campaign is quieter than before and often out of sight. Iraqi soldiers hunt ragtag bands of militant fighters in the foothills. … The residual U.S. force of about 2,500 troops supplies what American and Iraqi officials describe as vital intelligence about targets.”
- “How is Alaska leading the nation in vaccinating residents? With boats, ferries, planes and snowmobiles,” by Cathy Free: “About 13 percent of the people who live in Alaska have already gotten a shot. That’s higher than states such as West Virginia, which has received a lot of attention for a successful vaccine rollout and has inoculated 11 percent of its people. But the challenge for Alaska has been how to get vaccines to people across difficult, frigid terrain — often in remote slivers of the state?”
- “Iowa’s House speaker said he can’t make lawmakers wear masks – but he did enforce a ban on jeans,” by Teo Armus: “Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley (R) has repeatedly pushed back against imposing a mask mandate inside the legislature, saying that he cannot force lawmakers to cover their faces — just as he cannot stop someone from voting on the House floor in their bathing suit. But when one Democratic lawmaker attempted to speak during a floor debate on Tuesday — not in a bikini or one-piece but in jeans — Grassley called her out for violating the chamber’s dress code.”
… and beyond
- “Parler CEO says he was fired by conservative political donor Rebekah Mercer,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Jeff Horwitz and Keach Hagey: “John Matze, the former CEO, said he was fired on Friday by the company’s board as the platform was within days of restoring service to its roughly 15 million users. He said the board is currently controlled by conservative political donor Rebekah Mercer. ‘Over the past few months, I’ve met constant resistance to my product vision, my strong belief in free speech and my view of how the Parler site should be managed,’ he said in a statement. ‘For example, I advocated for more product stability and what I believe is a more effective approach to content moderation.’”
- “Democrats actually learned from the failures of 2009,” by the Intercept’s Ryan Grim: “On Wednesday, Sen. Joe Manchin appeared on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ to talk about the state of negotiations over President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 relief package. The network posted the video with a misleading headline: ‘Sen. Manchin calls for bipartisanship on Covid relief plan.’ The headline isn’t technically inaccurate. … But the real message Manchin delivered was a different one. He had recently spoken to Biden about the path forward, he said, and Biden was quite clear. ‘He basically said, ‘I don’t want to go down the path we went down in two-oh-nine when we negotiated for eight months and still didn’t have a product and had to do what we’re doing now.’ I said, ‘Fine, Mr. President, I’m happy to start this process.’’ The process he was referring to is budget reconciliation. … And the reasoning behind it — that we can’t make the same mistake as in 2009 — marks a startling departure from the Democratic Party’s long-running inability to learn from failure.”
- “The lousy tippers of the Trump administration,” by Slate’s Moe Tkacik: “Knowing they would otherwise tip badly, I’d fall all over myself to send them little comps — a round of prosecco even if I wasn’t sure that seat 3 was 21, gratis simple salads for the 90 percent of guests who hadn’t ordered apps, gelato and a few slices of ‘celebration’ cake at the end of the meal — and they would still, more often than not, tip less than 18 or even 15 percent, which wouldn’t have been ruinous if the tip-out had been less than 10.5 percent of sales.”
This periodically published piece of digital real estate will serve as home to stray reportorial observations that don’t make the cut as longer reported pieces. Tips about the workings of Washington? Email me at Olivier.Knox@washpost.com.
Republicans who spent the first few weeks of Biden’s administration complaining he was aggressively reneging on the “unity” theme of his campaign pivoted this week to a new argument. Biden, they say, wants to deliver but is being held back by his staff. Exhibit A: White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain’s nodding “no” during an Oval Office meeting with Republican senators to discuss Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package.
Asked about the Biden vs. staff story, a senior administration official confirmed Klain’s head-shaking in a bullet-pointed and emoji-adorned email. Look, there’s a reason this is a “Notebook” item and not a separate reported piece.
Klain “nodded when they said things that were productive — some ideas on small business, nutrition, even targeting the checks” but “nodded no when they were on things that were going nowhere — especially cutting the checks from $1400 to $1000 because he knew Biden would never go for it.”
“Another area where he nodded no quite strongly was during state and local presentation. He nodded no because their position was $160b when Trump was President and the GOP ran the Senate, and now, they were for $0. That’s not a path to a deal,” the official said.
“Finally, he nodded when one senator wrongly stated that our child tax credit and EITC expansion did not pay out benefits until 2022.”
“In the end, his nods no were not an effort to derail a deal, but rather, to try to focus the meeting on places where there could be a deal.”
Quote of the day
“To the extent we can work with our Republican colleagues, let’s do that,” Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) said after meeting with Biden and other Senate Democrats to discuss the relief package. “At the end of the day, if we can’t, then that’s fine. But I was thrilled that the president met with Susan Collins and nine of our colleagues earlier this week.”
The first 100 days
House Democrats set the stage for a party-line approval of Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.
- With a 218-to-212 nearly party-line vote, the House approved a budget bill unlocking special rules in the Senate allowing the package to pass with a simple majority, instead of the 60 votes usually needed, Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report.
- Still, Biden remains confident he can “get some Republicans.” If Republicans remain united against the Biden proposal, any individual Democratic senator will have outsize influence. Already, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), the most conservative Senate Democrat, wants to know if the package can be more targeted.
Here’s what’s in the new Democratic plan for stimulus checks:
Heather Long and Stein report on details from the latest plan, which has not been publicly released and could still change.
- Sending $1,400 payments to individuals earning $50,000 or less and $2,800 to married couples earning $100,000 or less. People earning slightly above those thresholds would still qualify for a partial payment. About 71 percent of Americans would get benefits and another 17 percent would get the partial benefit. The plan would send an additional $1,400 per child to parents. That means a family of four would receive $5,600.
- Eligibility for adult dependents. In the prior rounds of stimulus checks, people over age 17 who could be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return weren’t eligible for any stimulus money.
- A cost of about $420 billion, which is slightly less than Biden’s initial proposal, which would’ve cost $465 billion.
- Democrats have explored pegging eligibility for the stimulus checks based on income from the prior year, meaning a person would have to qualify based on what they earned in 2019 or 2020.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) will today propose providing $3,000 per child, giving bipartisan support to Biden’s effort.
Romney’s proposal would:
- Provide $4,200 per year for every child up to the age of 6, as well as $3,000 per year for every child age 6 to 17, Stein reports.
- Give the White House an opportunity to incorporate policies with bipartisan support into its relief package. Unlike Democrats’ plan, Romney’s would be paid for, in part, by eliminating Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a welfare program, as well as other existing federal tax credits for children and working families. Many Democrats are likely to oppose this part of Romney’s plan.
Democrats and Biden made the $15 an hour minimum wage a key part of 2020 platform, but the push is running into roadblocks.
- The first obstacle? The plan to include it in coronavirus relief bill could fall afoul of Senate rules, Politico reports. The bigger problem, though, could be that not all 50 Democrats support including the wage hike in the package.
- Manchin opposes such a move, while Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said he would like to see changes made. New Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), however, is confident he has the votes to move forward on the wage hike through reconciliation.
- In a briefing this morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) indicated it's not the end of the world if the $15 minimum wage proposal doesn't make it into this relief package.
Tracking Biden's nominees
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will today hear the nomination of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to lead the Labor Department.
The Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will vote on Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) as secretary of housing and urban development and Cecilia Rouse as chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers.
Miguel Cardona, Biden’s nominee for education secretary, said he supports the rights of transgender athletes.
- During his confirmation hearing, Cardona said he supports the right of transgender girls to compete in high school girls’ athletics, as the Biden administration continues to reverse federal policy to favor transgender rights, Laura Meckler reports. Three Republican senators took the opposing view.
- Cardona, however, won the support for his new job from leaders of both parties on the committee. Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said she’ll soon schedule a vote on his nomination.
Michael Regan, Biden’s choice to lead the EPA, vowed “urgency” on climate change.
- Regan told a Senate panel he would “restore” science and transparency at the agency, Brady Dennis reports. He also promised to focus on marginalized communities and speed up the fight against climate change.
- Some Republicans confronted Regan about Biden’s plans to limit emissions from the nation’s automotive and fossil fuel sectors, claiming that the administration is moving too quickly and risking worsening the battered economy. Regan countered that, like Biden, he believes the U.S. will benefit from embracing the inevitable transition away from fossil fuels.
- Regan would be the first Black male EPA administrator.
- Correction: Due to an editing error, we originally wrote that Regan would be the first Black EPA administrator. That distinction goes to Lisa P. Jackson under former president Barack Obama.
Hot on the left
The recall campaign aimed at ousting California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) “just got real,” writes Politico’s Jeremy White. “The campaign to oust Newsom went from unlikely to unavoidable this week as pervasive frustration with Newsom’s pandemic management cut sharply into his approval numbers. The longer businesses have been closed, hospitals full and school campuses shut, the more the movement has gained traction beyond conservative social media circles.”
Hot on the right
Roger Severino, a controversial Trump appointee to a regulatory council, is suing the Biden administration, alleging that it illegally threatened to terminate his position. "President Biden's attempt to remove me contrary to law exposes his lofty promises of healing and uniting all Americans as nothing more than cynical manipulation," Severino said in a statement provided to Fox News. "Because I am not one to be bullied, not even by the President himself, I will not resign my duly commissioned post.” Trump appointed Severino to the Council of the Administrative Conference of the U.S. before leaving office, and he received his commission just four days before Biden’s inauguration. Severino’s lawsuit claims Biden cannot unilaterally end his three-year appointment.
Vaccine doses in America, visualized
This week in Washington
Biden and Harris will visit the State Department today, where the president will deliver his first major foreign policy speech at 2:45p.m. He will speak on “reclaiming America’s role in the world.”
Some Democratic attack ads are misleadingly linking swing-district Republicans to QAnon, our fact checker found: