This should have been Kevin McCarthy’s week of celebration and victory laps, with the U.S. House of Representatives set to flip to the Republicans next week on his watch. He should be unveiling all the big policy proposals and plans the GOP House has for the nation. He should be holding court with the D.C. press, talking about his rise to power.
Instead, he’s hiding out retweeting stuff from November and doing his best to avoid the latest scandal that has the Capitol agog: Rep.-elect and pathological liar George Santos, the incoming New York Republican whose entire life might be fictitious.
Of course, part of McCarthy’s problem is that it’s not a sure thing that he is victorious—that is that he’ll be able to get the speakership next week without a humiliating genuflection to the whackjob caucus. The ringleaders against him reiterated Tuesday that they’re not backing down.
“Our leadership requires change,” Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, the guy who is challenging him for the job, said Tuesday. Another, Rep. Matt Gaetz from Florida, who still isn’t in jail, added: “We need someone like Jim Jordan as Speaker of the House.” Jim Jordan, judging by last reports, still doesn’t want the job. He wants to stay head of the Judiciary Committee where he can get maximum yelling-on-camera exposure.
There are still enough votes to block McCarthy from the speakership, to deny him the 218 votes he needs. The GOP has a tiny majority at 222, and there are still five Republicans who are saying “nope” on his speakership. There aren’t any Democrats volunteering to help him, which would backfire with Republicans, anyway. Hence his Santos dilemma. He needs all the votes he can get, including Santos’.
But that creates another problem for him, because a few House Republicans are getting antsy about allowing him into the caucus. Incoming Rep. Nick LaLota, a fellow New York Republican, called for a House Ethics committee investigation of Santos.
“As a Navy man who campaigned on restoring accountability and integrity to our government, I believe a full investigation by the House Ethics Committee and, if necessary, law enforcement, is required,” LaLota said in a statement. “New Yorkers deserve the truth and House Republicans deserve an opportunity to govern without this distraction.”
The Republicans Jewish Coalition rightly blasted Santos for, well, everything starting with telling the group that he was Jewish (now he’s claiming he meant “Jew-ish,” which is not helping) to saying his grandparents were Holocaust refugees. The coalition’s executive director, Matt Brooks, said that Santos had “deceived us and misrepresented his heritage” and that he “will not be welcome at any future R.J.C. event.” But even after all that, the group isn’t saying Santos should barred from serving in Congress. Because they’re Republicans.
McCarthy isn’t saying a damned thing. It would be nice to think it’s because he’s so chastened over his previous boasts about Santos winning and helping Republicans gain the “largest Republican Jewish caucus in more than 24 years.” At this point thinking McCarthy could be embarrassed about anything he’s said or done is giving him way too much credit, however.
So McCarthy hasn’t said anything about Santos, and his team seems to be busy scrubbing away any collusion they had on the NRCC website with his lies. They erased from his biography his academic claims that he had degrees from Baruch College and New York University, and his claim that he had worked at Citigroup and Goldman. But there’s sure as hell not going to be an official comment from McCarthy—he needs Santos both for his tiny majority and for his own ambitions.
Democrats, meanwhile, are enjoying their popcorn. “He appears to be a complete and utter fraud. His whole life story made up, and he’s going to have to answer that question: Did you perpetrate a fraud on the voters?” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the incoming Democratic leader, told reporters. “It’s an open question to me as to whether this is the type of individual that the incoming majority should welcome to Congress. … That’s a question for Kevin McCarthy at this point in time.”
Yeah, I don’t think there are going to be any Democrats lining up to help McCarthy out in the near future. On anything.