MTG, Santos, McCarthy will make for must-see viewing

This post is being published on January 3rd, which is the day that the House of Representatives organizes itself for the next two years.  That includes the selection of a speaker, a normally routine function of the party that controls a majority of the House.

But with just a four-vote majority, all is not happy in the Republican Party. There will be quite a show to watch as the Reps struggle to get their leader in place. The “hell no” gang of five will dominate the proceedings if they stay together. There are nine or more others looking for a fight.

The Democrats had only a four-vote majority for the past two years, yet they not only appointed their Speaker but managed to pass some significant legislation. There probably won’t be much legislating over the next two years.

During his years in Congress Kevin McCarthy has shown himself to be a man with no principles or strong leadership ability. After Republicans pushed out John Boehner as Speaker in 2015 McCarthy fumbled his opportunity for the speakership and the party settled on Paul Ryan as the alternative. Since then McCarthy has repeatedly bowed to Donald Trump’s wishes. His selection as Speaker is not a forgone conclusion.

The reasons for McCarthy’s problems are many, but the composition of the new majority is mainly responsible. A large block of wack-a-doodle members have the votes to mess up House proceedings for the speakership and for that matter, for the entire two years. Votes to approve a budget or to raise the debt ceiling will be chaotic.

Leading the crazy caucus is the Congresswoman from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene.  Her bizarre politics get her noticed.  Her big mouth seems to be intimidating many other Republicans.  She is only supporting McCarthy because he sold what is left of his soul to her in exchange for the right to dictate policy and personnel to her liking.

While the Republicans are dealing with the wheeling and dealing over the speakership, enter the newly elected Representative from Long Island’s NY3 District, George Santos.  Santos has taken lying to a new level in politics.  Among what he describes as “resume embellishments” are the such things as:

  • Saying he graduated from Baruch College.  He has since admitted that he hasn’t graduated from any college or university.
  • Claiming to have worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, when it turns out he only had some occasional business contacts with those two financial giants.
  • Stating that he is Jewish.  He now says that he is “Jew-ish” but is actually Catholic.
  • Not explaining where his recent wealth has come from and how he was able to provide $700,000 to his campaign.
  • Questions about legal problems in Brazil, where he lived before moving to the United States.

So what we have here is not simply a failure to communicate, but rather a willingness to lie about everything. Which can be a problem for a member of Congress who is supposed to work with other members on legislation and such. Kevin McCarthy, of course, needs Santos’ vote so he is not about to cut him loose.

But interestingly some Republicans have a spine about this. Two newly elected House members from districts neighboring Santos’s NY3 are calling for an investigation. The United States Attorney in Brooklyn and the District Attorney in Nassau County have already begun such work.

And then, as so often happens, there is a local angle to this story. Chris Grant’s Big Dog Strategies, started in Buffalo and still participating in many local campaigns, was Santos’ general political consultant and direct mail designer. The firm was paid $147,118 according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Big Dog Strategies lists 25 races for the House that they worked on but does not include Santos’ campaign. They do list Congressman Chris Collins, who went to prison for illegal insider stock trading.

More recently the New York Times, which has exposed Santos’ shortcomings, has reported that Big Dog Strategies is providing “crisis management” advice to Santos.  It appears that that is not going so well.  As Howard Baker might say, what did Big Dog Strategies know and when did they know it?

Regardless of how the selection of the new House Speaker turns out, that Speaker will have his hands full; not likely to be “her hands,” but who knows – Elise Stefanik is lurking right behind McCarthy. They want to go after Joe Biden, but they will be constantly looking over their shoulders to see what MTG and company are doing while also having to explain their acceptance of Santos into the caucus. If, as expected, McCarthy is selected as speaker, or even if someone else is chosen, the new Speaker will accept the crazy caucus’s demand to change House rules to more easily permit “motion to vacate” votes. That will make the Republican majority a day-to-day operation. “Motion to vacate” would allow a small number of House majority party members (McCarthy’s has agreed to five) to at any time call for a vote to remove the Speaker. Even if McCarthy is elected he may not serve out the full two year term.

Activities in the House of Representatives are likely to be very chaotic over the next two years. That could be very bad for the country.  But for outside observers of the process, buy some extra popcorn.  The show is just beginning.

Twitter @kenkruly