While few Republicans voted to reprimand the rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) On Wednesday, several GOP lawmakers privately say his jokes brought Republicans an unnecessary diversion in an otherwise optimistic month. It forced them into defense just hours before Democrats are expected to take a vote on Biden’s signature law to expand the social safety net. And Republicans would much rather talk about that bill – as they largely believe it’s their ticket to flip the handful of seats needed to reclaim the speaker’s hammer.
Instead, GOP drama dominates headlines. Inflation and democratic conflicts have taken the back seat to Gosar’s violent social media coverage – he published an animated video depicting him killing rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) – and the backlash from the party against the 13 Republicans who supported this month’s infrastructure vote.
Their predicament was caught on Wednesday afternoon when McCarthy and dozens of Republicans held a press conference to speak out against the Democrats’ social spending plan. When the top Republican opened the event to take questions from journalists, the first question was about Gosar.
“Did you hear anything we said?” McCarthy answered the journalist before dismissing the question and eventually concluding the press conference. The GOP leader later gave a fiery speech in which he condemned the vote: “The speaker is burning the house down on the way out the door.”
But while tensions have certainly escalated, Republicans say the Gosar vote has not divided the party, especially compared to other moments this year. All but two Republicans voted against the no-confidence motion, arguing that Democrats went too far in removing him from committee. That step – once unheard of – has now happened twice this Congress.
If anything, Republicans say the Democrats’ efforts to spearhead Gosar as he sat three rows at the back of the chamber have further poisoned the relationship across the aisle.
McCarthy privately told a group of members of the Republican Committee of Inquiry on Wednesday that Gosar’s office was wrong in posting the video, but that he opposes the majority-led effort to criticize the Arizona Republican. The GOP leader said that if they recapture the majority, he does not believe that rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) Should serve on the House Intelligence Committee, according to local sources. Republicans have also appointed reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) And House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) As lawmakers who should be concerned if Republicans take over Parliament.
Still, some moderate Republicans complained that McCarthy and his team could have done more to resolve the situation. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) Pointed out that “this was not the first thing” with Gosar, recalling previous comments in support of Nazis, white supremacists and baseless conspiracy theories.
Upton recalled harsher punishments handed out by former President John Boehner (R-Ohio) to members with a far lesser offense: “You are not wearing your tie properly, John Boehner would go after you.”
Still, Upton – which received death threats last week from voters from its own party to support Biden’s infrastructure law – did not criticize the word on Wednesday, arguing that removing Gosar from its committees was “a bit too far.”
Other moderates are also eager to look past Gosar’s behavior and return to hammering Democrats for their agenda. Rep. Jeff Van Drew (RN.J.) said “no one is perfect” and it was time to “move on.”
The New Jersey Republican also tried to downplay threats in his party after he voted for the infrastructure law along with 12 other Republicans: “No one goes after me, a few members said something, but everyone else is amazing in there. I have not had a problem. . “
The GOP’s incentive to unite comes as members are largely optimistic about their prospects of regaining the majority. But they also acknowledge that the party flare-up does not help.
This is hardly a new problem for GOP leaders. This year it’s Gosar and rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). Before them, it was former Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) – who narrowly avoided criticism of Parliament due to repeated racist remarks.
Democrats claim the House could have avoided a dramatic reprimand of Gosar on the floor if GOP leaders had taken their punishment into his own hands.
McCarthy made private lobbying company Gosar to remove the video and address the controversy in a statement, which Arizonan ultimately did. Gosar also apologized to his own GOP colleagues behind closed doors on Tuesday when he stood up and explained to the conference that the intention of the video was to try to reach a younger audience. But Gosar has given no formal apology to the Democrats who were in the video.
“I have certainly said that there is no threat in the comics beyond the threat that immigration poses to our country,” Gosar said in a speech held in Parliament Wednesday before the no-confidence vote. “If I have to join Alexander Hamilton, the first person tried to be censored by Parliament, then so be it.”
The lack of action is a shift from a decade ago, when Boehner was hardly pale in taking action against rioters at his conference, as when he fired half a dozen Freedom Caucus members because in 2012 they received leadership on certain votes.
But some Republicans say leadership loses its ability to keep members in line when they have already been fired from a committee, leaving them with limited or no tools to rein in cumbersome members.
On the other hand, McCarthy faces a push from members of the House Freedom Caucus and some privates arguing for action against Republicans who voted to pass the two-party infrastructure bill earlier this month.
Greene, the first-year zealot, urges these Republicans to lose their committee duties. To add to the excitement, some of these Republicans say Greene posted their office phone numbers on Twitter – which she did because of their voice – has led to death threats for members like Upton.
Out of the 13, rep. John Katko met the most fire from his colleagues. GOP leaders had urged Republicans who planned to vote for the bill to hold until the end to avoid helping Democrats, according to GOP sources. Katko, the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, was the first Republican to vote in favor of the bill.
Katko’s name was repeatedly mentioned during the GOP conference meeting on Tuesday when some pushed for him to be stripped of his top committee role. But other Republicans have become annoyed that GOP members are going after each other.
“I never saw the video Gosar had posted. It’s probably stupid. And this move to punish the 13 Republicans is also stupid,” said Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas).
Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.