As the current Congress got underway earlier this year, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stressed the importance of Republican unity. As far as the California congressman is concerned, having a unified GOP conference is critical to winning back the House majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
With this in mind, in early February, McCarthy's office declared with pride, "Our conference is united."
That's not a line House Republicans would repeat with a straight face 10 months later.
As 2021 has unfolded, GOP lawmakers have spent much of the year going after one another. Wyoming's Liz Cheney has been a popular target for her Republican colleagues, as has Illinois' Adam Kinzinger. There's been some intra-party grumbling about Arizona's Paul Gosar, too. More recently, the 13 House Republicans who voted for President Joe Biden's infrastructure package faced an intense backlash from their ostensible partisan allies.
But by most measures, this week's feud between two first-year GOP members — Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene and South Carolina's Nancy Mace — is qualitatively different.
The dispute stems from Rep. Lauren Boebert and her bigoted rhetoric directed at a Democratic colleague. Mace denounced the Coloradan's anti-Muslim smear, and Greene denounced Mace for having criticized Boebert.
The dispute took an ugly turn yesterday, as Greene described Mace as "the trash of the GOP Conference," adding a personal attack related to abortion, while the South Carolinian responded with a tweet that used emojis to call Greene a "bats--- clown." The right-wing Georgian took her concerns to Donald Trump, as if he were the grown-up.
At face value, this may seem like a pointless political spat, but it took on greater significance when Kevin McCarthy personally intervened, tried to lower the temperature, and failed. Politico reported overnight:
The California Republican implored Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), in separate private meetings, to stop attacking one another after their back-and-forth online spat dragged on for hours earlier Tuesday. After speaking with the GOP leader, Greene said she told McCarthy that she would quit attacking Mace. But as she was leaving the meeting, Greene suggested to CNN that she was interested in seeing Mace get a Republican primary challenger, something former President Donald Trump has called for.
Around the same time, as the day wrapped up, Mace told reporters, "All I can say to Marjorie Taylor Greene is, 'Bless her f---ing heart.'" The South Carolinian added that Greene is a "grifter," who has "nothing going on in her life," and someone who "takes advantage of vulnerable Americans and vulnerable conservatives."
Meanwhile, other Republicans started taking sides, with Kinzinger coming to Mace's defense, while Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida promoted online content referring to Mace as a "scam artist."
The New York Times added, "The carnival-like behavior would amount to little more than a sideshow if it did not have real implications for midterm campaigns and, possibly, a fractured Republican majority in 2023."
Let's also not forget that some GOP lawmakers have said Democrats shouldn't try to punish extremist members such as Gosar and Greene — through censure resolutions, stripping members of committee assignments, etc. — and should instead leave it to Republican leaders to police their own.
But when McCarthy tried to show some leadership yesterday, and spoke directly to Greene and Mace about calming the waters, they proceeded to largely ignore his plea, as if the minority leader's wishes were irrelevant.
The result isn't just a messy intra-party feud, it's also fresh evidence of McCarthy's weakness, even among his own members.