On Tuesday, things went so wrong for Republicans that the level of their dysfunction became the focus of the story. At Fox News, Steve Doocy was busy dressing down House Majority Whip Tom Emmer for his role in throwing away a border security bill that is the best Republicans might ever get. Meanwhile, The New York Times was reporting that “dysfunction reigns in Congress” as the Republican majority in the House showed an incredible ability to lose its way with a “humiliating series of setbacks.”
Whatever Emmer was whipping, it wasn’t votes.
Now Republicans need someone to blame for those failures. Like all parties that revolve around a single authoritarian leader, the most important thing is not to fall under the baleful glare of the Eye of Donald Trump. And the best way to do that is … to point the finger at someone else.
After Republicans’ failure to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene made a bid to blame Democrats because Rep. Al Green turned up to vote in a wheelchair when Republicans thought they had safely scheduled this vote at a time when Green couldn’t appear due to emergency surgery.
But blaming everything on the old hidden Democrat trick was not enough for others. Rep. Greg Steube went on Newsmax to point at a Republican absence—House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who had the audacity to be out for cancer treatment. “If Scalise would have been here … the bill would have passed,” Steube said.
There were claims overnight that Scalise would return for a Wednesday vote, though his office said otherwise. Dragging Scalise out of cancer treatment so that Republicans can squeak out a sham impeachment with a one-vote margin would be a top entry in the annals of both cruelty and pathos.
Other Republicans widened the scope of their blame to take in the whole of Republican leadership in the House, which led to one of the strangest aspects of a strange day: nostalgia for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
“Getting rid of Speaker McCarthy has officially turned into an unmitigated disaster,” tweeted Rep. Thomas Massie. “All work on separate spending bills has ceased. Spending reductions have been traded for spending increases. Warrantless spying has been temporarily extended. Our majority has shrunk.”
Massie wasn’t the only Republican suddenly longing for the Golden Age of Kevin, but the irony meter had to be definitively fried by this statement from Rep. Matt Gaetz.
"I also wonder, wouldn't it have been nice to still have Kevin McCarthy in the House of Representatives," Gaetz said on Newsmax. "Never thought you'd hear me say that."
Is that even irony? Irony squared? Irony times hypocrisy over the reciprocal of karma?
Whatever it was, Gaetz went on to blame McCarthy for getting rid of former Rep. George Santos. This definitely did not happen, since Santos was expelled two months after Gaetz engineered the ouster of McCarthy from the speaker’s chair.
Still, Santos sent Republicans a little something to remember him by in their moment of darkness.
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson kept it simple: He blamed everyone but himself. "I don't think this is a reflection on the leader,” Johnson told reporters. “It's a reflection on the body itself." Sure. That’ll do it.
Following the loss on impeaching Mayorkas, one senior Republican aide was pushing a hard line, writing, “If we lose the Israel vote after losing Mayorkas impeachment: VACATE.”
Then they lost the vote on Israel.
Rep. Mike Gallagher grabbed a pen for a Wall Street Journal op-ed on Wednesday, to take a swipe at every Republican in Congress who voted to impeach Mayorkas. “Impeachment not only would fail to resolve Mr. Biden’s border crisis,” wrote Gallagher, “but would also set a dangerous new precedent that would be used against future Republican administrations.”
But Gallagher was alone in trying to stop the bleeding. The remainder of the caucus had their eyes firmly fixed on what’s important: pleasing Donald Trump. After all, Trump doesn’t want issues at the southern border solved; he wants them front and center in the fall election. And in that cause, congressional Republicans are fully prepared to humiliate themselves all over again today, and tomorrow, to infinity and beyond.
As The New York Times reports, Republicans thought they had set a trap for Democrats on the border issue, one that would give them a potent issue for the fall and powerful leverage to get policies they wanted. But Democrats “tripped them up,” in the Times’ words, by giving Republicans unexpected concessions on border security and tying it to military assistance for Ukraine.
Now Republicans are scurrying to explain how what they demanded is the wrong thing all along. Congress is flailing, multiple issues get ignored in the storm of finger-pointing, and no one wants to name the person primarily responsible for this mess.
Because that person is Trump. And if Republicans have to burn down their own house and throw their friends under buses to make Trump happy … just line up those buses.
Republicans demanded border security, worked on a compromise deal with Democrats, and now want to blow the whole thing up. Biden is promising to remind Americans every day that the Republican Party is at fault for the lack of solutions to the problems they claim are most important.