The Republican Dominated House of Representatives Is A Disgrace

Heather Cox Richardson

Today House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) canceled tomorrow’s votes and sent the House of Representatives into recess until February 28.

Before recessing, Johnson refused to take up the national security supplemental bill the Senate passed early Tuesday morning, providing aid for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan and humanitarian aid for Gaza. Johnson said the House must “work its own will” rather than vote on the bill at hand because the measure did not include border security measures.

Yesterday, Johnson told House Republicans that the House will not be “rushed” into passing foreign aid, despite the fact that Ukraine’s desperate need for ammunition is enabling Russia to regain some of the territory Ukraine’s troops reclaimed over the past year. 

But is it a rush? President Biden asked for additional national security funding in October 2023. A majority of lawmakers in the Senate and the House support such a measure, but Johnson bowed to the demands of MAGA Republicans and said he would not bring such a bill up for a vote unless it contained border security measures to address what they insisted was a crisis at the southern border of the U.S., apparently banking on the idea that such a compromise was impossible.

But Democrats were so desperate to pass the Ukraine funding they see as crucial to our national security that they agreed to give up their demand for a path to citizenship for the so-called Dreamers, those brought to the United States as children and reared here but now stuck in citizenship limbo. So, after four months of work, Senate negotiators produced a bill that offered much of what Republicans demanded. 

Once it was clear a deal was going to materialize, Trump demanded it be shut down, likely because he has promised his base that on his first day back in office, he will “begin the largest domestic deportation operation in American history,” and a new border measure would both undermine his campaign message and stymie his plans. Although the border patrol officers union endorsed the Senate national security measure that included border security provisions, Republicans killed it. 

Senators immediately went to work on a national security supplemental without the border measure, passing it with 70 votes on Tuesday morning. Johnson indicated he would not take it up, right about the same time that Trump renewed his attack on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that underpins U.S. and global security. 

“House Republicans are…siding with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Tehran against our defense industrial base, against NATO, against Ukraine, against our interests in the Indo-Pacific,” the White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said yesterday, and President Joe Biden has repeatedly warned that “[f]ailure to support Ukraine at this critical moment will never be forgotten.” But Republicans, too—including Trump’s vice president Mike Pence—are begging House Republicans to pass a version of the measure.  

Perhaps to pressure Johnson, House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Turner (R-OH), who is a strong supporter of aiding Ukraine in its fight against Russia, yesterday released information about “a serious national security threat,” urged all members of Congress to view the intelligence, and called on Biden to declassify all information relating to it. That threat appears to be antisatellite weapons Russia is developing, but they are not yet operational. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) of the Senate Intelligence Committee expressed concern that the disclosure might have revealed intelligence sources and methods.

And now, rather than taking up the national security measure, the House has recessed.

National security and border measures are not the only things the House is ignoring. Since this is a leap year, putting February 29 on the calendar, the recess will give the House just three working days to pass appropriations measures for the 2024 budget before the stopgap continuing resolution to fund the government expires on March 1.

The appropriations process is so far overdue that it threatens to become tangled in that for 2025, which is set to begin March 11, when the White House is expected to release its budget proposal for the year. 

While they have been unable to make headway on these measures, on Tuesday night, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to impeach Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, blaming him for an increase in migrants at the border. Johnson has named as impeachment managers a number of Republican extremists, including Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Clay Higgins (R-LA), and Harriet Hageman (R-WY). 

As Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan of Punchbowl News reported: “This is the most chaotic, inefficient and ineffective majority we’ve seen in decades covering Congress. It started this way under former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and has gotten worse under Johnson.”

Trump and his MAGA supporters are demonstrating their power over the Republican Party. Trump is trying to install hand-picked loyalists, including his daughter-in-law, at the head of the Republican National Committee, where she vows that “[e]very single penny will go to the No. 1 and the only job of the RNC—that is electing Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.” 

When Trump was in office, his team installed loyalists at the head of state parties, where they have worked to purge all but Trump loyalists. MAGA Republicans are continuing that process. After Senator James Lankford (R-OK), a reliable conservative tapped by Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to negotiate a border measure, produced one that favored Republican positions, right-wing provocateur Benny Johnson called those like Lankford “traitors…spineless scum” who must “be criminally prosecuted.” 

That demand for purity appears to be radicalizing the House as Republicans inclined to get things done, including five committee chairs, have announced they will not run for reelection. Meanwhile, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene yesterday said that British foreign secretary David Cameron, who is urging Congress to pass Ukraine aid, “can kiss my ass.” 

But the MAGA agenda is falling apart in the courts. True the Vote, the right-wing organization that insisted it had evidence of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, has told a Georgia judge that, in fact, it has no such evidence. Their claims provided the basis for the arguments about voter fraud highlighted in right-wing pundit Dinesh D’Souza’s film 2000 Mules. 

Today a grand jury convened by Special Counsel David Weiss, whom Trump appointed to investigate Hunter Biden, indicted former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov for making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record about Hunter Biden. Smirnov has been a key witness for Republican allegations about Biden’s “corruption” since Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) released Smirnov’s unverified claims about a year ago and other MAGA figures spread them. Matthew Gertz of Media Matters noted that Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity’s show highlighted these allegations in at least 85 separate segments last year, including 28 monologues. Now a grand jury has grounds to think Smirnov lied. 

Trump’s personal problems also continue to mount. 

Today Judge Juan Merchan confirmed that Trump is going to trial on his criminal election interference case, with jury selection beginning on March 25. Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg has charged Trump with 34 felonies for falsifying business records in order to hide critical information from voters before the 2016 election. Prosecutors say that Trump defrauded voters by illegally hiding payments he made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about their affair before the election. As Andrew Warren put it in The Daily Beast, the case “is about a plot to deprive voters of information about a candidate for president—information that Trump and his allies believed to be damaging enough to hide.”

And yet Trump’s MAGA Republicans are calling the shots in the House, and their refusal to support Ukraine threatens to empower Russian president Vladimir Putin and thus to lay waste to the rules-based international order that has helped to prevent world war since 1945. Conservative pundit Bill Kristol noted earlier this month that “politics is often a stage on which people act in bad faith. Still, the demagogic opposition of House Republicans to the border/Ukraine bill, when they’ve all said the border is an emergency and that Putin should be stopped, is just about the baddest bad faith ever.” 

The implications of that bad faith for the country—and the world—are huge.

Leave a Reply