Report: House Dems will vote tomorrow to censure Paul Gosar and strip him of committee assignment over anti-AOC video

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

Note the singular in the headline. They’re not stripping him of all of his committee assignments, just the one he sits on with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

This makes two instances so far this year of the majority booting a member of the minority from a committee, Marjorie Taylor Greene being the other. As repulsive as Gosar is, the precedent Dems are setting by not deferring to his own party on disciplining him will mainstream the practice of sidelining members of the House minority. That may have already been baked in the cake after Greene’s assignments were taken away but it’s a cinch after this that the GOP will retaliate against Ilhan Omar or whoever in 2023. Disempowering the minority’s fringier cohort as a matter of common majoritarian practice is an ominous new turn in America’s cycle of bitter partisan oneupsmanship.

The vote will come tomorrow, says Politico:

The video Gosar posted was a Japanese anime clip with various politicians’ faces photoshopped onto the characters. It was reminiscent of the video Trump once tweeted of one of his WWE cameos showing him attacking a wrestler, except in Trump’s clip the wrestler had the CNN logo superimposed on his face. Gosar’s vid showed a character with his face leaping into the air and slashing a character with AOC’s face, killing her. In isolation, it’s a tacky joke. “Everyone needs to relax,” said his digital director. “The left doesn’t get meme culture. They have no joy. They are not the future. It’s a cartoon. Gosar can’t fly and he does not own any light sabers. Nor was violence glorified. This is about fighting for truth.”

But there’s baggage on both sides here that made Gosar’s tweet seem more menacing to Dems than “meme culture.” He helped organize the January 6 rally, has been friendly with alt-righters, and is as prone to conspiracy theorizing as Greene is. He’s one of the biggest cranks in the House. Meanwhile, Ocasio-Cortez has talked about fearing for her life on January 6, was accosted by Greene on the House floor, and has had other unpleasant run-ins with the House GOP’s populists. After Gosar’s tweet, she complained that harassment by Republicans is nothing new:

I think for her and progressives, Gosar’s video was an enough-is-enough moment. The GOP obviously won’t do anything to punish him (although a phone call from Kevin McCarthy did get him to take the video down, evidently). If her own leadership didn’t do something, she might have turned around and accused them of complicity. “One of the things that I have expressed to the speaker and leadership is that I find it to be very important for there to be a concrete response to the congressman’s threats,” she said last night.

So they’re doing something.

Here’s the text of the censure resolution.

For McCarthy, this is deja vu. This past spring, as Dems were preparing to move against Greene, he was getting an earful from MAGA populists in his caucus about the fact that Liz Cheney wouldn’t stop criticizing Trump for “rigged election” propaganda. His solution was to demand party unity and refuse to move against either congresswoman. He wouldn’t discipline Greene for her crazier comments in the past, which made the MAGAs happy, but he also wouldn’t condone ousting Cheney from leadership, which made the rest of the caucus happy. (He changed his mind later about Cheney as the two became more adversarial, of course.) He’s in the same position now with respect to Gosar. The center is in one of his ears, demanding that he discipline Gosar for his AOC tweet and, really, for his entire political history since 2017. Yet the right is in McCarthy’s other ear, demanding that he discipline the 13 Republicans who voted yes on the, uh, very popular bipartisan infrastructure bill.

They tried to hash it all out at a caucus meeting today:

During Tuesday’s conference meeting, McCarthy urged Republicans to stick together and said now is not the time to go after fellow members, per sources in the room. Several Republicans, including McCarthy and others who opposed infrastructure, defended the members who voted for the bill, arguing everyone has a right to vote their districts…

Still, multiple GOP members emerged from Tuesday’s meeting expressing support for the resolution, while Rep. Chip Roy of Texas even got into a heated exchange with McCarthy over whether these members should face consequences.

Privately, several Republicans have expressed outrage, frustration and even “disgust” that GOP leaders haven’t done more to condone the incendiary rhetoric from some of their colleagues or defend the members who are now facing retaliation for their infrastructure vote. But none were willing to go on the record with their criticism, with some worried about further putting a target on their back.

A little more on the McCarthy/Roy exchange:

Does Roy have a head injury? He refused to object to the certification of Biden’s win on January 6, famously so. (And to his credit.) To this day, he’s viewed with suspicion by Trump and MAGA because of it. It’s embarrassing that McCarthy would need to defend Roy’s vote to Republican voters but that’s where the Trump Party is these days.

Anyway, you can see how McCarthy means to play this. Second verse, same as the first: He won’t move against Gosar in order to keep populists happy but he won’t discipline the 13 pro-infrastructure Republicans either, knowing that that vote might help some of them hold their seats next fall and pad the new GOP majority. That should keep moderates happy. He won’t discipline the center but he won’t discipline the right either, leaving Democrats to do it. If McCarthy did discipline Gosar, there’d be no consequences to Republicans’ chances next fall. No one’s going to stay home in protest because Paul “Who?” Gosar doesn’t get to sit on committees anymore. But Trump and MAGA would hold it against him. If he loses favor with the former president and a bunch of Trump-cultist candidates come flooding into Congress in 2023, it’s possible that populists will strike back on Gosar’s behalf by denying McCarthy the gavel and insisting on a compromise choice for Speaker like Steve Scalise or Elise Stefanik instead.

That’s why Liz Cheney, for once, is wrong:

It’s not crazy politically. Embracing Gosar is terrible politics for the GOP but the red wave that’s gathering should be easily large enough to hand McCarthy a majority next term even with the stink of populist crazy on them. And by staying on MAGA’s good side, they’ll have no compelling reason to oust him as caucus leader and replace him with someone else. He’s putting his own interests first, his ambition to be Speaker, in steering clear of Gosar. When does he ever do otherwise?

I’ll leave you with this. Enjoy that gavel, Kevin.