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Image: House Republican Leadership Speak To The Media
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at a GOP news conference on Wednesday. Behind him, from left, Rep. Tom Cole, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and Rep. Kay Granger.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

McCarthy among GOP reps scrambling to back anti-election lawsuit

It's not just the number of GOP signatories, it's also worth reflecting on the specific names on the revised list.


Late yesterday, House Republicans released an amicus brief in support of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's (R) anti-election lawsuit. Of the 196 House GOP lawmakers, 106 of them -- roughly 54% -- chose to sign their names to this genuinely ludicrous litigation.

Soon after, Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) announced that she'd also joined the effort -- her name was apparently omitted after a clerical error -- bringing the total to 107 House Republicans.

Today, Reuters' Brad Heath noted the revised tally:

The House Republicans just updated their SCOTUS brief to make clear that it's not actually 107 Republican House members who want the Supreme Court to overturn Trump's defeat by discarding millions of votes. It's 126.

Or put another way, 64% of the House Republican conference -- nearly two-thirds of the partisan body -- signed on to a legal filing, insisting that millions of American ballots should be ignored, lies should be believed, wild-eyed conspiracy theories should be believed, and the loser of the election should be handed illegitimate power.

But it's not just the number of signatories, it's also worth reflecting on the specific names on the revised list. As we discussed this morning, the list includes a member of the House GOP leadership (Louisiana's Steve Scalise), a former member of the House GOP leadership (Washington's Cathy McMorris Rodgers), the current chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee (Minnesota's Tom Emmer), powerful former committee chairs (Texas' Kevin Brady), and even members with reputations for relative moderation (Florida's Mario Diaz-Balart).

And as of this afternoon, it also includes House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who balked yesterday, but who apparently changed his mind -- or had his mind changed for him by someone else calling the shots.

In other words, the top two GOP lawmakers in the U.S. House -- including the would-be House Speaker if Republicans reclaim the majority in two years -- have, in The Atlantic's David Graham words, "gone from coddling a sore loser to effectively abandoning democracy." Many of the ballots that helped shrink the Democratic majority in the House are now being targeted by the GOP's own leadership as part of a bonkers pro-Trump scheme.

It's easy to imagine the political landscape a year from now, with pundits asking, "Why aren't President Biden and Democratic leaders working well and striking deals with congressional Republicans?" The answer is already clear: GOP leaders who question the value of democracy are not easily dealt with.

For his part, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) wrote this morning, "The left-wing outrage is predictably over the top. The request here is simple: allow this case to be elevated to the Supreme Court, and let the Supreme Court make a determination. All cases should be heard, all investigations should be thorough. It is that simple."

It's not that simple. First, the idea that "all cases should be heard" is silly: the Supreme Court couldn't possibly hear every case appealed to it, which is why the justices turn away roughly 90% of the cases that reach the high court. Second, the idea that frivolous cases deserve serious scrutiny from the federal judiciary -- because some Republicans say so -- is absurd.

But let's also not forget that Team Trump and its allies have had their day in court. They've filed dozens of cases and had ample opportunity to produce evidence. They've also failed spectacularly, which is hardly a justification for asking Supreme Court justices to take a look.

Finally, Crenshaw and his GOP colleagues haven't just asked the high court to "make a determination." They've explicitly argued in their filing that the justices should block the electoral college process or allow state legislators to override the will of voters.

Following up on our earlier coverage, it's likely that some will offer a tacit defense of these 126 House Republicans, arguing that they don't genuinely believe the garbage lawsuit; they merely signed onto this brief for political reasons. Maybe they fear Trump and his followers. Maybe they want a fundraising boost. Maybe they're worried about a primary challenge in 2022.

But ultimately, what these Republicans believe is less important than what these Republicans have done. An organized attack on our democracy is underway, and 106 elected federal lawmakers made a conscious and deliberate choice to stand on the wrong side.

In the not-too-distant past, news consumers routinely saw headlines saying, "House Republicans support [crazy thing]." We'd click the link, read the article, and see that the GOP lawmakers in question were really just Michele Bachmann and Louie Gohmert, at which point we'd shake our heads, shrug our shoulders, and move on.

Those days are over. On Capitol Hill, the Republican fringe is now -- quite literally -- the Republican majority.

A total of 106 House members are on board with asking the judiciary to overturn their own country's election, invalidating results they don't like. They're watching Donald Trump and his pals challenge the foundations of our system of government, and they decided to help his crusade.

There is a toxicity in the body politic, and it's poisoned roughly two-thirds of the House Republican conference.