Somehow I missed this quote from Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday night. Are these people actually going to block defense spending in order to salute a lame duck who’s throwing a public tantrum over a Big Tech regulation he doesn’t even understand?
What’s left of this party and its “beliefs”?
The most pitiful part is that it’s hard to argue with McCarthy’s political calculations, cynical though they are. Most of his caucus represents blood-red districts where Trumpism exists in its most cultish form. Overriding the president’s veto will be viewed by some voters there as an act of supreme disloyalty to the cult leader, especially after Trump starts screaming about it on Twitter. No cause, including funding U.S. troops, is so noble as to excuse that affront.
As he entered the House floor for that vote, McCarthy told reporters that he would absolutely vote for the National Defense Authorization Act, a yearly exercise deemed so key to basic functions of the military that it has passed for 59 straight years.
However, the GOP leader said, he absolutely would not vote to override President Trump’s threatened veto out of his anger toward social media laws that have no place in a debate about the military…
“My point has always been, when I became a leader, I would not vote against the president’s veto. I will hold up the president’s veto,” McCarthy told reporters, adding: “We’ve always worked together to make bills better.”
McCarthy is confident that he has plenty of Republicans who, just like he is doing, will be for the legislation until they are against it, unwilling to cross Trump on a veto override vote.
They need 290 votes to override a veto, which Trump has promised repeatedly unless the bill includes a last-second repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and excludes a provision that would eventually lead to the renaming of military bases named after Confederates. They got 335 for the bill on Tuesday night. If 46 Republicans follow McCarthy’s lead by flipping to no on overriding that veto, Congress is stuck — at least until Biden is sworn in, when a simple majority of the House will be enough to get this done.
McCarthy’s willing to stiff the Pentagon for six weeks knowing that his cause is futile, for no better reason than to pander to Trump fans who don’t understand that Section 230 repeal isn’t happening under these circumstances.
There’s another possibility, though. Maybe McCarthy is actually engaged in a bit of kabuki with help from his number three, Liz Cheney. Normally when the minority leader says he’s voting with the president on a major bill, that’s a major influence on the leadership and the rest of the caucus. But not this time:
Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, a member of the House Republican leadership, urged Trump not to follow through on his veto threat, but added that if he does veto it, “We should override.″
It could be that that’s just Cheney being a Cheney. She’s an uberhawk and she’s not going to let McCarthy’s toadyism towards Trump stop her from making sure that the Pentagon is funded. But it could also be that she and McCarthy are coordinating on this little two-step, aiming to simultaneously pander to Trump while also making sure that the bill passes. So here’s McCarthy, the leader, doing a big MAGA loyalty song-and-dance to please the base while Cheney, the chair of the House Republican Conference, once again politely defies Trump because she has other policy priorities. Cheney’s support for an override will give cover to other House Republicans to break with Trump while McCarthy’s opposition to an override will give cover to Trumpier types in the caucus to uphold the veto.
Maybe the two of them even have it all worked out behind the scenes about which caucus members will be voting which way, with a few dozen reps from MAGA districts authorized to protect their right flanks by voting no — but not so many that it would actually knock the bill down below the 290 it needs to overcome Trump. Few Republicans in the Senate seem to have any qualms about nuking Trump’s veto in this case. There must be a few dozen Republicans in the House willing to give Pelosi the votes she needs to make sure the troops get paid.
Although I wouldn’t bet my life’s savings on it. Jonathan Last is right that the GOP is an autocracy now, with every political demand made by the president just another dumb loyalty test that congressional Republicans need to pass.
Consider: Why has the GOP gone crazy and insisted that the election was “stolen”?
The answer—the only answer—is: Because Donald Trump said so.
What if Trump emerged after the election and said, “Tough loss. Joe Biden put up a good fight. I’ll be back in 2024 to beat him like a drum.” Well, in that situation, there would be no move to overturn the election and no one in the precincts of Conservatism Inc. would be arguing that, ackshually, Donald Trump won by a landslide.
They would not be arguing that because there is no evidence for this argument. None. Absent a command from Trump, no outside observer would have come to this verdict on their own.
But present a command from Trump, this position became mandatory.
Why has the House GOP gone crazy by contemplating blocking defense spending? The answer — the only answer — is: Because Donald Trump said so. It feels almost like an act of generosity that he deigned to specify Section 230 as his grounds for wanting the bill to fail instead of just telling McCarthy and the rest, “I want you to vote no on this because it would please me if you did so.” What would McCarthy have said if he had?
Look again at the quote up top. He admits flat out that he’ll always support a Trump veto, no questions asked, no matter how stupid, petulant, or damaging it is.
So maybe there’s no kabuki here with Cheney. Maybe McCarthy really does intend to serve his master by taking a dump on the military.
Speaking of autocracy, Axios has a piece today about some Senate Republicans angling to stall confirmation of Biden’s cabinet nominees for some unspecified period of time because cultists haven’t yet accepted that Biden’s going to be president. “As long as there’s litigation ongoing, and the election result is disputed, I do not think you will see the Senate act to confirm any nominee,” said — who else? — Ted Cruz, never mind that Congress itself will record the votes of the electoral college on January 6. Does Cruz mean to say that they’ll hold up hearings on nominees even after that date provided that Trump continues to file frivolous lawsuits? I guess the answer is, “If that’s what Trump wants.” It always is.