There are two things going on here in parallel to each other which the casual news reader might confuse, but it’s important to keep them straight. There’s an effort among some House Republicans, most notably Chip Roy, to slow down House business as a way of protesting Democratic attempts to fast-track legislation. Specifically, the GOP is pissed off that Dems changed the procedure for motions to recommit, which Republicans had successfully used to force changes to bills at the last minute in the past. Roy and other GOPers were so irritated by that that they recently threatened to force a slew of roll-call votes on “suspension” bills, i.e. uncontroversial bills with more than two-thirds support of the entire House. (One such bill was to award the Congressional Gold Medal to police officers who fought off the Capitol rioters on January 6.) A roll-call vote on each would have taken an hour or more since members of the House aren’t all present on the floor at the same time in the age of COVID. Faced with a long delay at a moment when they were eager to proceed to the COVID relief bill, Dems pulled the suspension bills from the floor temporarily to avert that.
In other words, Roy et al. wanted to send a message about how House Democrats are doing business and they sent it. If the majority intends to limit the minority’s rights by limiting the motion to recommit then the minority will have to use other procedural tactics to make its objections clear. Whether they target “suspension” bills again or not to make their point is momentarily an open question, with Steny Hoyer and Kevin McCarthy reportedly having discussed the matter. Even House Republicans who object to Democratic tactics don’t want to be forced into interminable late-night votes on matters which they know will pass easily.
While that’s been going on, Marjorie Taylor Greene has been engaged in obstruction of her own. More than once lately she’s forced a floor vote on adjourning the House. That vote is doomed to fail, of course, since Democrats control the majority, but the matter requires House members to carve an hour or so out of their day to go down to the floor and cast their ballot. That means hearings are disrupted and meetings with constituents are delayed — whatever they’re busy doing when Greene makes her demand. The point of this obstruction is … not fully clear. It doesn’t appear aimed at any particular procedural injustice. It’s more a combo of Greene wanting to strike back at Dems for stripping her of her committee assignments and wanting to register her objection to leftism with any tool available.
The problem is that it’s not just Democrats who have to come vote on her motions. Her colleagues in the GOP have to as well. And they’re getting more annoyed by the day,
“It’s frustrating,” said Rep. Fred Upton, a veteran Michigan Republican. “I don’t see that this is resonating at home, the motions to adjourn. I mean it’s just a pain. It’s a pain in the ass.”
“It’s just pissing everyone off,” said one senior House Republican member, asking for anonymity to discuss the matter candidly.
“Tactics without reason, they go nowhere,” said Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican. “So you’ve got to have a game plan. You just have to ask about the game plan there.”
Added Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw: “I’m not voting for any more motions to adjourn. These things are the games that both sides play. I’m not a fan of it from either side.”
McCarthy reportedly warned the caucus yesterday that if they’re going to obstruct there has to be a clear strategic goal in mind, as there is with Roy and his colleagues blocking the suspension bills. But no one takes McCarthy seriously so Greene objected again today, the fourth time in recent weeks. The result: No fewer than 40 Republicans crossed the aisle to vote with Democrats against adjournment.
That figure was more than double the 18 Republicans who voted against her motion last week to end House business for the day.
Some of those Republicans who have bucked Greene and GOP leaders have correctly predicted that the number of “no” votes will only grow as Greene continues to force more of these votes…
“I’m just tired of it. We’re doing this every day, and there’s no point. So I’m just done playing,” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a Greene critic, told The Hill last week.
The result of Greene’s protest was to delay the COVID relief bill by an hour before it passed, as expected, on an (almost) party-line vote. So what was achieved? Greene told WaPo that voting is what members of Congress are paid to do so they should stop complaining about having to govern. But perfunctory votes to delay business to no end when the outcome is preordained isn’t “governing.” To the extent that it’s obstructing meaningful business members are doing off the floor, it’s interfering with governing for no purpose.
Even so, more than 150 Republicans voted with her today. “The Democrats are the ones who created that situation, and that’s ridiculous what they did. It’s wrong what they did, and now they’re all upset that Marjorie’s asking them to do their job. I don’t have a problem with it,” said Jim Jordan to WaPo afterward. “I walked on the floor when she made a motion to adjourn, and I said, ‘Marjorie, you’re doing your committee work.’”
At the end of the day, she’s performing the highest duty a populist Republican can have in 2021: She’s owning the libs. For an hour. At the expense of owning the cons too. The important thing is to “fight,” not to fight for any particular goal or achieve anything while you’re doing it.
Which makes me wonder. Are Democrats really the targets of this obstruction? Greene posted this statement earlier this afternoon. Key bit:
Her statement goes on to name every Republican who voted against adjournment so that fans know who the “surrender caucus” consists of. Is it really the libs she’s after, then? Or is she just looking for an excuse to provoke a populist/moderate squabble within the party?
Realizing that McCarthy’s not going to do anything to rein her in, Dems are considering their options:
Greene has made multiple motions to adjourn in recent days in an effort to stall bills. Dem Rep. Cicilline just told reporters that he would propose a rule that one can only do a motion to adjourn if they are a member of a committee.
"I'm dead serious," he said. https://t.co/xT40MuBh7q
— Grace Segers (@Grace_Segers) March 10, 2021
Greene responded by mocking Cicilline’s name:
Marjorie Taylor Greene just referred to Rep. @davidcicilline, an Italian-American, as “Rep. Mussolini.”
— Andrew Desiderio (@AndrewDesiderio) March 10, 2021
The irony is that it’s Roy and his allies, who are actually trying to achieve something by obstructing, who’ll pay for Greene’s stunts. The more she tries to mainstream slowing down business for its own sake, the more divided the caucus will be over disruption tactics. What Greene needs in order to prevent more defections by her colleagues on adjournment votes is a statement of support from Trump. That’ll scare the “fear caucus” within the House GOP into sticking with her awhile longer. Although maybe not forever, especially with Republicans mindful that Dems will pay them back if the House flips in 2022.