GOP House Leadership Line-up: Extreme as They Wanna Be

Terrance Heath

As John Boehner eyes the exit, the line-up for the post-Boehner House GOP leadership is all white, all male, and as extreme as they wanna be.

House Republicans will vote for new leadership in just one week. House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to resign from Congress at end of the month set the scene for a shake-up in House GOP leadership.

Rep. Peter King (R, New York) summed up the GOP’s dilemma during an interview on CNN.

“I think it signals that crazies have taken over the party,” Mr. King told CNN. “Taken over the party that you can remove a Speaker of the House who’s second in line to be president, a constitutional officer, in the middle of his term with no allegations of impropriety, a person who’s honest and doing his job.

“This has never happened before in our country,” Mr. King said. “He could have stayed on — I would say, a solid three-quarters, 80 percent, 85 percent of the Republican Party supports John Boehner.”

This, by the way, is the same Peter King who blamed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for a shooting at a “draw Muhammad” contest in Texas; said Eric Garner was to blame for his own death; claimed the Ebola virus has gone airborne; and suggested that President Obama could heal race relations by “giving praise to the police.” That Peter King says “the crazies have taken over the party.”

One thing is already clear, House Republican leadership will remain an all-white, boys club after the Orange One exits. The sole woman seeking a top post in the post-Boehner House was Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R, Washington). Rodgers was considering running for House Majority Leader. Urged to reconsider, Rodgers has taken herself out of the running. At least now we know where the House GOP’s glass ceiling is located.

As the only adult in the room, albeit a weak one, Boehner spent too much time placating extremists in caucus, but at least he made occasional, half-hearted efforts to keep them in check. His decision to get while the getting’s still good will turn the House in to an experiment of the extreme leading the extreme. Here’s a peek at the possible line-up for House GOP leadership in the post-Boehner era.

Speaker

Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Almost as soon as Boehner announced his resignation, Rep. Kevin McCarthy was named Boehner’s likely successor. McCarthy became famous as one of the “young guns” of the new House Republican majority, along with former Rep. Eric Cantor (R, Virginia) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin).

Since coming to Congress, McCarthy has worked his way up to Majority Leader by cultivating relationships with his colleagues, taking on thankless jobs, and avoiding taking hard positions on social issues. However, McCarthy has been ramping up the crazy. During an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show, McCarthy let it slip that the GOP’s Benghazi obsession was all about derailing Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Later, McCarthy told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the select committee process worked so well on Clinton, that he wants to make Planned Parenthood the next Benghazi.

McCarthy’s conversion to crazy may not be enough to convince right-wingers he’s their guy. Right-wing radio host Mark Levin warned Republicans against replacing Boehner with McCarthy. “Kevin McCarthy is Eric Cantor with ten less IQ points,” Levin said in an interview with Brietbart News. Ouch.

Daniel Webster

If Kevin McCarthy can’t bring the crazy, perhaps Rep. Daniel Webster (R, Florida) can. Webster tossed his hat in the ring on Monday, and he’s got the support of the Freedom Caucus (the gang that finally ran Boehner off). Webster’s views are so far to the right that voters have dubbed him “Taliban Dan.”

Webster also has long-standing ties to disgraced former reality TV stars, the Duggars. Webster has a long history of working with the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), and has spoken at several IBLP events — and spoke at one IBLP event about the need for wives to submit to their husbands. The Duggars are followers of IBLP’s teachings, which blame men’s sexual behavior on women for either tempting men or not meeting their needs properly.

Anywhere else, Webster’s views and his Duggar connection would work against him, but in this Congress, it gets him the support of a small-but-influential caucus of hard-liners.

Majority Leader

Rep. Steve Scalise (R, Louisiana)

House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R, Louisiana) announced that he will run for Majority Leader. Scalise was last in the news around January, when news broke that in 2002 Scalise addressed the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), an anti-Semitic, white-supremacist organization founded by David Duke in 2000. EURO has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Conference.



Scalise claimed that he did not know the nature of the group founded by the former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. But in 1999, three years earlier, Scalise told Roll Call that his only problem with Duke was that he “can’t get elected.” Scalise also described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” Once again, connections that would sink a candidacy anywhere else appear to work in Scalise’s favor. At the very least it hasn’t kept him out of the running.

Rep. Tom Price

Rep. Tom Price (R, Georgia) has been on the short list of likely candidates for Speaker, when John Boehner left the job (one way or another). However, the chair of the House Budget Committee has apparently set his sights on the Majority Leader spot. He’s got support from two influential House Republicans: Rep. Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R, Texas).

Getting Price as majority leader may serve as a consolation prize for Freedom Caucus hardliners who could block he GOP establishment from replacing Boehner with McCarthy. They don’t have any viable candidates, but they could throw a big enough fit on the House floor to keep McCarthy from getting enough votes, and create quite a lot of chaos. But the tea partiers might be willing to accept McCarthy, with Price as Majority Leader. Thus, the endorsements from Ryan and Hensarling.

Price’s right-wing credentials are hardly in doubt:

  • On a Tea Party Unity conference call in May, Price shared his fear of the negative health and economic impact of gay rights laws. Price said that “people who wake up one morning and think that they’ve got a grand new way of doing something,” end up becoming “a huge cost-driver to state pensions and other things.”
  • During an interview with RedState.com, Price declared that Obama administration had “led to what many people have called a government that no longer has the consent of the governed.”
  • Price cheerfully admitted that House Republicans passed a resolution affirming “In God We Trust,” to “remind the president what the motto of our great country is.” That’s way more important than passing jobs legislation. Right?
  • Asked what women who can’t afford birth control should do if insurance won’t cover it, Price said “there’s not one woman” who lacks access. “Bring me one woman who has been left behind.” “There’s not one,” he said. About one-third of female voters have struggled to afford birth control as some point, including 55 percent of young women. Price joined the rest of his caucus in support of defunding Planned Parenthood, which gives low-income women access to contraception and other health services.
  • Price famously referred to President Obama’s demand that BP set up a $20 billion “escrow account” for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

Price not only talks the tea party talk, he walks the walk as a legislator:

  • In 2012, Price voted for the most radical right-wing budget in American history; one that would: “give every millionaire a brand new $265,000 tax handout, cut funding for the poor by $3.3 trillion, privatize Medicare, and impose spending caps so radical that it would ‘end most of government other than Social Security, health care, and defense by 2050.’”
  • Price’s “Keep the IRS Off Your Health Care Act of 2013,” — the GOP’s 40th attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act — would have killed health care reform by blocking the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing or implementing any portion of the law.
  • The “Pro-Growth Budgeting Act of 2014” would have amended the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 to require “macroeconomic analysis,” before Congress voted on tax or spending legislation. It was large-scale “dynamic scoring,” which — as Tom Toles depicts it — allows Republicans to holler “touchdown” at the economic 50-yard line, and reward their wealthy patrons with tax cuts, without appearing to add to the deficit they’re so worried about.
  • The “Decrease Spending Now Act,” would have imposed $45 billion in cuts to public sector spending, put 440,000 federal employees out of work, reduced the size of the middle class, and increased unemployment, by reducing economic activity. (People who lose their jobs tend to spend less on goods and services, and support fewer jobs.)

No wonder Price as Majority leader appeases the tea party caucus. Plus, he doesn’t appear to have Scalise’s “baggage.”

Rep. Trey Gowdy – Honorable Mention

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R, South Carolina) deserves at least an honorable mention here. Conservatives started a movement to draft Gowdy as a candidate for Majority Leader. Gowdy’s backers were probably impressed with the young conservative congressman’s work as chair of the House select committee on Benghazi.

Forcing Hillary Clinton to testify before the committee secured Gowdy’s position as a hero in right-wing hearts. Even John Boehner himself secretly urged Gowdy to run for Majority Leader. But it wasn’t enough to get him in the the race. The campaign to draft Gowdy fizzled out almost as quickly as it began.

Most likely, McCarthy will end up Speaker, with Price as majority leader. It’s not clear that McCarthy can stop being everyone’s buddy, or whether he will have even less backbone than Boehner (if that’s possible) when it comes to standing up to “the crazies” in his caucus. The Freedom Caucus wants a speaker it can control, rather than be controlled by. They may get it in McCarthy, especially with Price at his elbow.

As Speaker, John Boehner was almost equally despised on the left and the right. However, the anarchy likely to ensue in the House after his departure may give many of us cause to miss him. Just a little.

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