As of Thursday, House Republicans are no closer to nominating a speaker of the House, meaning the vote will likely drag into next week since Congress is allergic to working on Fridays.
But perhaps one of the most telling moments came on Wednesday evening when Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene spoke to reporters about what she told Representative-elect Byron Donalds on the House floor (Congress technically has no members because nobody has been sworn in).“And I asked him, I said, when is this going to end, because, you know, I’m getting beat up a little bit from conservatives that don’t understand what is really happening,” she said.
That notion is somewhat understandable, because for as much as Ms Greene has sold herself as an insurgent outsider, she has become Mr McCarthy’s most indefatigable ally in the House despite the fact that many conservatives don’t see him as one of them. Rather, they see him as a malleable force who will say whatever is needed to obtain power.
This is a strong contrast from his Republican predecessors John Boehner–who removed members from committees if they crossed him to the extent that Mark Meadows got on his knees begging for forgiveness when he crossed the speaker–and Paul Ryan who fashioned himself as a policy wonk obsessed with numbers and became the consensus choice for speaker after Mr McCarthy failed to secure enough votes in 2015.
Ms Greene allying herself with someone as mercurial and power-driven as Mr McCarthy risks diluting her image as a hardline outsider. Still, she seemed optimistic on Wednesday evening.
“But today things are changing because I’m getting a lot of messages from conservatives that are getting fed up with this,” Ms Greene said.That sense of seriousness went completely out the window on Thursday when her friend Matt Gaetz voted for former president Donald Trump to be speaker as he sat right beside her and despite the fact that Mr Trump has thrown his support behind Mr McCarthy.
That move alone removed any pretense that the insurgent Republicans had a serious sense of concerns to be placated. Prior to then, conservatives could say they had serious demands and they had put forward other members whom they thought could be sufficiently conservative alternatives of varying legitimacy.
But Mr Gaetz’s vote has shown that this is less about achieving specific conservative end goals and instead, is more about exacting revenge.
Incidentally, before the chaotic votes for speaker began, Representative-elect Brian Mast of Florida, who backs Mr McCarthy, said that the insurgent conservatives have no incentive to change their vote because “you have people that ... went out and made statements with the media that feel as though, “Well, if I don’t go out there and do what I said, you know, and at least oppose one round or two rounds or something like that, that I’m gonna look like I have no balls back home.’”
But in the same respect, despite the fact that the 21 Republicans who have not voted for Mr McCarthy–either by nominating Jim Jordan, Mr Donalds or voting “present”–backing down at this point would be even more humiliating because it would mean he let this group of Republicans keep him from his singular goal.