Perhaps the only thing worse that presiding over a House minority caucus is running one with a bare majority. Paul Ryan certainly learned that lesson the last two years, and now Politico reports that Nancy Pelosi already hip-deep in the same problem. Thanks to gamesmanship by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Republicans have split off a number of frosh Democrats from previously Republican districts on key procedural votes, and the situation is only getting worse:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has another rebellion in her ranks. And there’s no easy way to quash it.
House Democrats have repeatedly faced surprise Republican floor attacks since taking control of the chamber, part of a bid by the GOP to target their most vulnerable members and fracture the party. Just six weeks in, the GOP effort has been an astonishing success — dividing Pelosi and her top deputies and pitting members of the freshmen class against each other.
At issue is a wonky procedural tactic that Republicans have weaponized to split Democrats on a range of thorny issues, from sexual abuse to anti-terrorism funding. Roughly two dozen Democrats have so far bucked their party and sided with Republicans on the votes, which offer the House minority one last chance to shape legislation on the floor.
As the GOP continues to peel off rank-and-file Democrats, party leaders have grown alarmed — and are increasingly engaged in finger-pointing about who is to blame for the disunity and what to do about it, according to interviews with nearly two dozen Democratic lawmakers and aides.
The split reaches all the way into Pelosi’s leadership team. Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn supposedly have given vulnerable first-termers leeway to cast protective votes on these motions to recommit. McCarthy and his team have found ways to make provocative use of this tool, forcing votes on issues that are mainly procedural but could carry impact in the next election cycle if voters perceive that the new Democrats are too in line with Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi, meanwhile, doesn’t want to let the frosh Dems off the hook at all. She wants to shut down McCarthy by ignoring recommits, but that failed miserably yesterday when the House voted unanimously to add language to a bill on Yemen that pledged to fight anti-Semitism. Not only did that come from a recommit motion, it directly if implicitly rebuked two new House Democrats — Ilhan Omar (MN) and Rashida Tlaib (MI).
And from the other direction, another frosh House Dem is splintering caucuses in both the House and Senate. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ Green New Deal had a disastrous launch last week and may come to a catastrophic crash in the Senate next week. That won’t be the last we hear of the Ocasio-Cortez agenda in the Senate either, The Hill reports:
In addition to the vote after next week’s recess on the star freshman’s climate change plan, they say the Senate could find itself considering Ocasio-Cortez’s call for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the nation’s highest income earners, providing “Medicare for all” and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“We’ll give everybody an opportunity to go on record and see how they feel about the Green New Deal,” McConnell told reporters Tuesday.
A Republican aide described the GOP leader as “fired up” about the plan, noting that Democrats are already squabbling over how to respond to the tactic.
The progressive lightning rod has gotten zapped herself a few times already, which has other Democrats on Capitol Hill running for cover. The Green New Deal has already split off Joe Manchin, while two other coal-country Senate Democrats — Bob Casey (PA) and potential 2020 presidential contender Sherrod Brown (OH) — won’t take a public position on it. All three just won re-election and won’t have to defend their seats for another five years, but none of them want to get put into the Ocasio-Cortez category of extremists.
Count Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) among the fans of McConnell and McCarthy’s efforts. What Congress really needs is more votes, and more clear transparency on just what elected officials really think:
“I think it’s appropriate to put those on the floor and just see where people are on these issues. The American people have a right to know where members of the Senate or members of the House stand on what I consider very extreme proposals,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.). “We don’t vote enough. We should probably vote on some of these things.”
Some of them, anyway.