In January 2025 it seems increasingly likely that there will not be a Republican majority, at least in Congress.
The Republican Party is divided between conservatives and moderates. But the conservatives themselves are hopelessly divided, with Freedom Caucus members opposing traditional conservatives and the Freedom Caucus split.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is now in a difficult and unsustainable position. He will either have to find a solution to unite the caucus or ask for Democrats’ help to pass a short-term budget bill.
Many Freedom Caucus members see this as an invitation to Defcon 1 to take on McCarthy. The new House rules allow for only one member to move to “vacate” the Chair to force McCarthy to resign.
The last time it took 15 votes to elect McCarthy. Anyone can guess how many votes it will take to elect the speaker of this session. McCarthy’s ouster as speaker is a certainty, and the United States government will have to close down in large part.
Reps. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D. The stopgap bill was crafted by Byron Donalds (R-Fla. ), who negotiated on behalf of conservatives and represented the centrists. The bill failed after Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. and other bomb-throwers raised so many objections it became obvious that McCarthy wouldn’t be able to get enough votes to pass the measure.
Rep. Byron Donalds (also a Florida Republican) reacted to Gaetz’s criticisms of the plan by writing on social media, “Matt tell the truth. What is your plan to convince voters to stop funding Jack Smith? You’ll require more than just tweets and hot takes!”
Rep. Chip Roy from Texas, who was instrumental in reaching the agreement, also attacked the hardliners. He said on a conservative talk radio show “I’ve got many conservative friends who love to thump their chests, saying, “Oh, this isn’t pure enough.”
“Fine. McCarthy said to his group of leaders at dinner, “Let the Freedom Caucus fight their war.” To borrow an obscene version of a military phrase, it was time to play around and see what would happen: “There is a limit to our ability, but they wanted this fight,” McCarthy said. Let them fight. “Then perhaps they’ll learn a lesson.”
In 2024, “learning their lesson” will mean getting hammered. The more Gaetz, his radical allies, and the Democrats continue to make impossible demands for which even many Senate Republicans would never vote in a million lifetimes, the more they will be able to portray the “MAGA Republicans”, as extremists.
McCarthy faces a difficult task as he tries to protect his Speakership, avoid a shutdown of the government, and manage the optics surrounding Ukraine funding during the visit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to Capitol Hill.
Rep. Steve Womack (a Republican from Arkansas) summarized the situation in NBC’s MTP Daily on Monday. “It’s a complete disaster on the majority’s side right now.”
Gaetz and the Freedom Caucus will find it very hard to elect one of their own as Speaker. Gaetz wants the job, but according to GOP sources, he wouldn’t receive more than 70 or even 80 votes. This kind of bomb-throwing by Gaetz and others will turn voters away in purple districts, and give Democrats back control of the House.