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House Republican Circus Continues

Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY) is not only one of the 20 most famous members of Congress right now, he might be Top 10, or even Top 5 (look out, AOC!). He was in the news yet again yesterday, after he announced that he has requested to be removed from his House committee assignments "until his issues are resolved."

We don't really know what sequence of events would mean that Santos' issues have been "resolved," and might lead to him rejoining his committees. So, we tend to assume that his non-committee status is permanent. When we heard the news, we struggled to come up with an explanation as to why Santos had a change of heart in just one week. Perhaps he's embarrassed, and all the pressure got to him? Maybe, except that he's clearly not the type to feel shame; if he was, he wouldn't be in this situation. Perhaps he was reading polls like this one, wherein 78% of his constituents say he should resign? Maybe, except that resigning from one's committees isn't going to please those who think he should just resign from the whole gig, and it's also not going to please those who still support him, either. So, bailing out on his committees doesn't really make sense as a response to bad polling.

It was Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) who let the cat out of the bag. Not deliberately, mind you, but remember that you can't spell "giant motormouth" without M-T-G. She was speaking to reporters, and trying to repeat the party line that this was all of Santos' own initiative, and that party leadership had nothing to do with it. What she really revealed, however, is that the House Republican Conference is apparently sensitive to people saying "Wait a minute. You kicked Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) off her committee, but you let 'George Santos' stay?" So, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) strongly "suggested" to Santos that it would really help the Party's messaging if Santos "resigned" from his committees.

This is hardly the first time something like this has happened in the halls of Congress. The other recent example that will stick out in readers' memory is when the Democrats threw then-Sen. Al Franken (DFL-MN) under the bus after a relatively benign sexual misconduct scandal (mildly suggestive joke photos that the subject was later revealed to have consented to) so that their anti-Roy Moore messaging in the Moore-Doug Jones special election would not appear hypocritical.

Yesterday's development does tell us two things, though. First, the overwhelming amount of negative press being generated by Santos is getting under the skin of Republican leadership. If he gets into trouble of a sort that historically has caused a member to be expelled, it looks like the Republican conference will do it, and won't stick their necks out for him.

The second lesson is that McCarthy & Co. are keenly interested in going after Omar and making sure she's booted off the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Why are the Republicans moving heaven and earth to punish Omar, a Muslim woman of color, for past statements about Israel that veered into antisemitism territory (without going whole-hog), and that she's apologized for? Put another way, for whom is this bit of political theater being staged? Maybe it's for the vast, vast numbers of Republican Jews out there? Actually, if Sheldon Adelson were still alive, we might be inclined to believe that his money could buy him a one-man show of this sort. But now that he's gone, we're doubting that Jewish Republicans are the primary target here. We suspect there are other, larger elements of the GOP base that will be pleased to see a non-Christian brown woman "get hers." Oh, and case you think we're imagining things here, yesterday House Republicans announced that they are disbanding the House Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.

The vote on expelling Omar, not coincidentally, is likely to take place today. And it appears it will be succesful; one of the Republicans who spoke out against the maneuver, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) said yesterday that she's changed her mind. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), incidentally, says he's "undecided." Is there anyone at all who really believes that? Even Gaetz himself?

So, it's another day of song and dance for McCarthy the House Republican Conference. We suspected, from the moment that they gained control, that they would have little interest in actual governance, and that the focus would be on theatrics, score-settling, and the like. Nothing that has happened thus far has caused us to rethink that assessment. (Z)

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