Occasionally, congressional Republicans are overwhelmed by their partisan instincts. In May, for example, while trying to condemn anti-Semitic hate crimes, House GOP leaders ended up complaining about Democrats.
A month later, during a debate over Confederate statues on Capitol Hill, House Republicans focused less on making arguments and more on complaining about Democrats.
Yesterday, meanwhile, House GOP leaders announced plans for a Capitol Hill press conference "to discuss the need for individuals to get vaccinated." The New York Times reported on what transpired at the event itself.
House Republican leaders and doctors gathered Thursday morning for a news conference ostensibly to urge Americans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus amid rising infections across the United States, but they used the event to attack Democrats who they said, without proof, had dissembled about the origins of the virus.
This really should've been an easy one. If the point of the press conference was "to discuss the need for individuals to get vaccinated," all congressional Republicans had to do was encourage the public to do the smart and responsible thing. Given the partisan and ideological divide on vaccinations, it's a message the GOP's voters definitely need to hear.
But as the Times' report noted, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) -- the second and third-ranking House Republicans -- "instead blasted Democrats for what they called a cover-up on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party."
GOP officials eventually addressed vaccinations, but "only when pressed by reporters." The report added, "Republicans who attended, many of whom represent constituencies that have refused to get the vaccine, could not seem to bring themselves to hammer home the importance of" getting vaccinated.
At one point, Scalise was willing to say, "I would encourage people to get the vaccine," only to have Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.) add soon after, "This vaccine is a medicine, and just like with any other medicines, there are side effects and this is a personal decision."
At the same press conference, Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), the controversial former White House physician, tried to chide reporters, saying journalists have a responsibility to ask congressional Democrats whether they've been vaccinated or not. What the Texan apparently didn't realize is that Dems have already been asked -- and 100% of them are already vaccinated.
It was against this backdrop that NBC News' Jonathan Allen wrote yesterday, "As the delta variant of the coronavirus courses through the American bloodstream, the Republican Party can't make up its mind about vaccines."
Given the seriousness of the public-health crisis, it's an impossible dynamic to defend.