It hasn't been a great week for Republican unity on Capitol Hill. Most notably, two first-year GOP House members — Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene and South Carolina's Nancy Mace — have feuded in ways that turned quite ugly in recent days.
The conflict started in earnest when Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado directed anti-Muslim rhetoric at a Democratic colleague, at which point Mace denounced the Coloradan's bigoted smear, and Greene denounced Mace for having criticized Boebert.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to lower the volume, meeting with Greene and Mace on Tuesday, and telling them to stop going after one another. After the appeal from the would-be House Speaker, the congresswomen largely ignored McCarthy's plea.
Yesterday, the House GOP leader tried again, taking a similar message to the entire conference. The Hill reported:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday pleaded with Republicans to stop attacking each other as they keep getting mired in nasty personal fights, admonishing them that "Congress is not junior high." During a closed-door meeting with rank-and-file Republicans, McCarthy said that the intraparty squabbles among a handful of Republicans — primarily between the far-right flank and more moderate members — weren't helpful for the GOP as they seek to win back the majority in 2022.
According to a source in the room, the minority leader said 99 percent of his members are "doing the right thing," adding that the other 1 percent should stop the partisan infighting. (The Hill's report added that Greene, Boebert, and Florida's Matt Gaetz sat together during the conference meeting, and they audibly grumbled in response to McCarthy's comments.)
As a mathematical matter, I'm not sure McCarthy's numbers are quite right. The House Republican conference currently has 213 members, and if GOP leaders are under the impression that all but two or three are "doing the right thing," it may be time for a larger conversation about what those words mean.
What's more, it's far from clear the degree to which members are listening to McCarthy's directions: Mace continued to criticize Greene late yesterday afternoon.
But stepping back, what McCarthy didn't say may have been more important than what he did say.
Remember, the impetus for this latest intra-party dispute was Boebert and her reliance on anti-Muslim rhetoric directed at one of her congressional colleagues.
With this in mind, McCarthy's message yesterday was incomplete. It makes sense that the House Republican leader told his members to stop feuding with one another, but what rank-and-file GOP members also need to hear is a reminder to stop smearing religious minority groups they don't like.
It was against this backdrop that five leading House Democrats — Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty, Congressional Asian Pacific American Chair Judy Chu, Congressional Equality Caucus Chair David Cicilline, and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Raul Ruiz — issued a joint statement late yesterday, calling on House members to strip Boebert of her committee assignments.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has expressed some skepticism about such a move — the Democratic leader said it risked giving the far-right Coloradan more of the attention she craves — but it remains a live issue. Watch this space.