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Piranhas in House Turn on Each Other

You wouldn't think it possible, but things have gone from bad to worse in the House of Representatives, as the House Republican Conference has left itself, at least at the moment, with no apparent way forward.

Let's start with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), specifically, with the vile campaign of intimidation that has been waged by his supporters. CNN managed to acquire a voicemail left for the wife of an unknown male representative who voted against Jordan. Here is an excerpt, which we are not going to censor because we think that inappropriately mutes the impact. If you don't want to read adult language, please skip the indented paragraph:

Your husband's an asshole. You should fucking talk to his stupid ass. We're at war. Israelis being killed. And your dumb husband is acting like a fucking two-year-old? No wonder. He's a fucking war-mongering piece of shit. So listen, you're going to keep getting calls and e-mails. I'm putting all your information over the Internet now. Everybody else is. And you will not be left alone because of your fucking faggot husband. Jim Jordan or more conservative or you're going to be fucking molested like you can't ever imagine. And again, non-violently. You won't go to the beauty parlor. You must be a bitch to marry a fucking ugly motherfucker like that.

Jordan, for his part, has disclaimed responsibility for this stuff and has announced that his supporters should stop doing it. We don't particularly believe those sentiments are genuine; it reads like a big, amoral game of "good cop, bad cop" to us. Further, even if Jordan is being completely forthright, he has been encouraging this kind of approach to politics for over a decade (remember: "legislative terrorist") and has been a supporter of Donald Trump, who took this stuff mainstream. In short, there is (metaphorical) blood on Jordan's hands, and like Macbeth, there's nothing he can say or do to remove it.

If the poor woman who received that message was the wife (or husband, or child, or parent) of one of us, there would be absolutely nothing Jordan could do to get our vote, not today, not tomorrow, not a hundred years from now. And it's pretty clear there exists a cadre of Republican members who feel the same way. In theory, there was supposed to be a third speaker vote yesterday. Once it was clear it would fail, Jordan called it off, and tried to meet with the holdouts. Not only did he not win any converts, according to those who were there, but at least a dozen members refused to even attend the meeting.

At that point, Jordan announced that he planned to "suspend" his efforts for now, and that he thought it would be a good idea to work on empowering Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-NC) to run the House for now, with resumption of the race for the speakership to happen sometime in January. It did not take long before a sizable chunk of the Republican Conference made clear that was not happening.

What, exactly, is the problem with this ostensible compromise position? Not too many members have explained themselves, but we think we have a pretty good grasp on the main concerns:

On the latter point, there were some truly... remarkable... comments from a few current and former members of the House. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene whined: "this conference is absolutely broken." Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) decreed: "I believe it is a constitutional desecration to not elect a Speaker of the House." Former speaker Newt Gingrich said: "And it's really, truly, I think the most disgraceful behavior by Republicans in my lifetime." Hmmmmmm... if only we could figure out who it was that made this kind of dysfunction possible. But we just can't put our finger on it.

With relatively few alternatives, House Republicans have scheduled a third vote for today at 10:00 a.m. ET. Will they actually hold the vote? Maybe. Will it result in the election of a new speaker? Seems... improbable. (Z)

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