The fact that right-wing extremists gathered for a white nationalist event would not generate national headlines. What mattered about this year’s America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), however, is the fact that some Republican elected officials were on hand for the gathering.
It’s left GOP officials with a decision to make about what, if anything, they’re prepared to do about it.
In Arizona, Republican state Sen. Wendy Rogers, whose record in this area is indefensible, did not try to hide the fact that she attended the AFPAC event. This, among other offenses, led the Republican-controlled state Senate to formally censure Rogers yesterday — in a 24-to-3 vote — for “unbecoming” conduct that has damaged the institution’s reputation.
In Idaho, meanwhile, Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin not only addressed the white nationalist event via video, she sought to align herself with the conference’s attendees who support “America First” ideas. Not surprisingly, McGeachin — who’s also running a GOP gubernatorial race — is facing calls for her resignation.
And then, of course, there’s the U.S. House, where two Republican members — Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene and Arizona’s Paul Gosar — also appeared at the white nationalist event. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Monday that their participation at the gathering was “unacceptable.”
The hope was that the House GOP leader would then move forward with some kind of action. So far, that hasn’t happened. HuffPost reported:
House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) wouldn’t say Tuesday whether party members who participated in a white nationalist event over the weekend would face any repercussions.... Asked Tuesday if the pair could remain in the Republican conference, McCarthy referred to his previous statement. “I answered that yesterday,” he said.
That’s not quite right. McCarthy told CNN and Punchbowl News that it was “appalling and wrong” for Gosar and Greene to attend the white nationalist event. He added, “There’s no place in our party for any of this. The party should not be associated any time, any place with somebody who is anti-Semitic.”
But he didn’t say what would become of Greene and Gosar, or what kind of consequences, if any, the pair might face from their party.
When McCarthy was also asked yesterday whether he’s prepared to endorse primary challenges to Gosar and Greene, after having endorsed Rep. Liz Cheney’s rival in Wyoming, the minority leader again referenced what he said a day earlier. “I made my statement yesterday,” McCarthy added.
He certainly issued a statement on Monday, but it didn’t say whether he’d back primary challenges to Greene and Gosar. The Californian also wasn’t on camera on Monday, and yesterday, he was.
At one point during Tuesday’s press conference, McCarthy seemed to suggest he could comment on his extremist members, but he won’t because there’s “a war in Europe.”
To briefly recap, the minority leader and the rest of the House GOP leadership team have options. McCarthy & Co. could kick Gosar and Greene out of the GOP conference. The party could also announce that it will not support the members’ re-election campaigns — akin to what the party has already done to Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, because of their efforts to help lead the investigation into the Jan. 6 attack.
McCarthy could even announce that he’s changed his mind about what he said four months ago, and he will no longer support giving Greene and Gosar committee assignments in the next Congress.
As of yesterday, however, McCarthy wanted the questions to simply go away. That seems unlikely.