'Ridiculous': The GOP Is Playing Dress-Up Through The Speaker Fight

Republicans are pretending to be characters from an 1850 novel and trotting around with lasso ropes as the House remains inoperable.
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WASHINGTON ― Ten days after ejecting Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from his leadership post, Republicans are no closer to replacing him and the House of Representatives remains at an unprecedented standstill.

The only things the GOP has to show for after a week of internal meetings ― meetings so private that lawmakers weren’t even trusted to bring their phones into the room ― are failed votes and chronic infighting.

They left for the weekend having just chosen Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as their next pick for a shot at the speakership, but he only got 152 votes for the role in a Friday meeting. He needs 217 votes to actually get the gavel.

“We are a broken conference,” Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas) told reporters on Thursday evening, walking out of yet another meeting in the Capitol basement.

It’s embarrassing, if entirely predictable, to watch. It’s also happening as Congress needs to act with particular urgency on a number of fronts. Lawmakers in both parties are eager to provide aid to Israel as its war with Hamas escalates. The Pentagon says it is running out of money to replace weapons in Ukraine as the nation faces Russian attacks. Congress has to pass a bill to fund the U.S. government to avert a shutdown next month.

The House can’t move legislation on anything until Republicans elect a new speaker.

And yet, for some GOP members at the center of this self-created chaos, there is no urgency. It’s simply a time to perform for the cameras.

Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) is all smiles heading into a GOP conference meeting, with a lasso rope, as the House remains at a standstill without a speaker.
Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.) is all smiles heading into a GOP conference meeting, with a lasso rope, as the House remains at a standstill without a speaker.
via Associated Press

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), one of the eight Republicans who voted out McCarthy, strolled out of a conference meeting on Tuesday displaying a large red “A” on her shirt.

When a reporter inquired why she was wearing that, Mace, clearly waiting for someone to ask her about it, cheerfully explained that she was channeling Hester Prynne from “The Scarlet Letter,” the 1850 novel about a woman in the 1640s getting pregnant out of wedlock, having the baby and being forced to wear a scarlet letter “A” for adultery as punishment in her puritanical Massachusetts colony.

“I’m wearing the scarlet letter after the week that I just had last week, being a woman up here and being demonized for my vote and for my voice,” Mace said, comparing the criticism she’s faced for causing her party’s mess to a fictional character being shamed for having a child with someone who isn’t her husband.

“I’m here to let the rest of the world know, the country know, I’m on the side of the people,” she continued, turning to face all reporters and cameras as she spoke. “I’m not on the side of the establishment, and I’m going to do the right thing every single time, no matter the consequences. Because I don’t answer to anybody in D.C. I don’t answer to anyone in Washington. I only answer to the people. Thank you.”

It’s not clear if she ever read “The Scarlet Letter.”

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) says she's basically Hester Prynne, the 1600s fictional character who was shamed for having a baby out of wedlock.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) says she's basically Hester Prynne, the 1600s fictional character who was shamed for having a baby out of wedlock.
via Associated Press

Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), meanwhile, walked past the press on Tuesday with a big grin and a lasso by her side.

Hageman’s office did not respond to a request for comment on why she brought a lasso into a GOP conference meeting.

By Friday morning, after long days of Republicans attacking each other and still failing to elect a speaker, Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) arrived at a GOP conference meeting dressed in an Israel Defense Forces military uniform.

Asked why he was wearing that, Mast said it was in response to Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) displaying a Palestinian flag outside of her office. Tlaib is Palestinian American and has had the flag outside of her office long before Hamas attacked Israel last weekend.

“Tlaib has her flag, I got my uniform,” Mast told reporters.

A spokesman for Tlaib did not respond to a request for comment.

The House still doesn't have a speaker and can't function. But Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) sure got lots of attention on himself this week.
The House still doesn't have a speaker and can't function. But Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) sure got lots of attention on himself this week.
Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y), who was just hit with a new federal indictment on Tuesday, has been drawing attention to himself all week.

He threatened retaliation against GOP colleagues planning to try to expel him over his criminal indictment. He had a public tantrum about House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) not personally calling him and courting him to get his vote for speaker, and vowed to oppose him no matter what as a result. Scalise didn’t have the votes anyway and withdrew.

On Friday, Santos got into a screaming match with a man in a House building, calling him “human scum” as he was trailed by a crowd of reporters. Minutes earlier, he was inexplicably walking around with a baby.

Meanwhile, the House is inoperable, nobody in the GOP conference is even close to having the votes to become speaker and there is no clear path forward to getting to that point.

HuffPost asked one GOP member with close ties to leadership for any response to colleagues using this moment not to unite around a speaker and get the House up and running immediately amid international crises, but to enjoy the limelight.

“Ridiculous,” this lawmaker said.

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