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Republicans confront new questions about whether they can govern

Taking stock of several GOP fiascos this week, one observer put it this way: “At this moment, House Republicans can’t govern. This isn’t just an opinion.”


Ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was feeling optimistic. His party was likely to take control of the chamber, and the California Republican expected to serve as speaker.

NBC News asked McCarthy whether was concerned about Republican divisions and infighting. “No,” the GOP leader replied. “We’re going to be quite fine.”

That was in December 2021. Congressional Republicans are many things now, but “quite fine” they are not. In the aftermath of the latest embarrassing failure for the House GOP leadership team, Punchbowl News summarized the landscape nicely:

At this moment, House Republicans can’t govern. This isn’t just an opinion, at this point. It’s a fact that’s been borne out in the Capitol all week. ... The House Republican Conference, as currently constructed, doesn’t have the ability to move legislation.

As the guy who wrote a book about Republicans abandoning their role as a governing party, it’s heartening to see so many GOP officials go out of their way to validate the thesis.

McCarthy’s inability to advance a defense spending bill that’s doomed in the Senate helped capture a low point for the party, but it was part of a larger mosaic. This was, after all, a week in which congressional Republicans:

I can think of ways to describe such a weeklong fiasco, but “quite fine” isn’t the phrase that comes to mind.

CORRECTION (Sept. 21, 2023, 4:21 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated when then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had said House Republicans were “going to be quite fine.” He said it in December 2021, not December 2022.