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Speaker battle shows the long tail of Trump's government sabotage

Trump allies in the House have brought Congress to a standstill, hamstringing operations with their revolt over House speaker.


For any enemy of the United States — foreign or domestic — who hoped Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign would help grind the federal government to a halt, the GOP's intraparty dispute over House speaker should be a welcome sight.

In the interest of transparency, I have enjoyed watching Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., squirm during this highly publicized and highly embarrassing saga. But increasingly, Democratic lawmakers who have every reason to share my glee have expressed concern over the consequences of a congressional chamber rendered effectively useless by this dysfunction.

On Wednesday, for example, I watched Democratic Rep. Colin Allred of Texas remind MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson that he’s technically still a representative-elect, because the new Congress hasn’t been sworn in. Allred said he’s not even sure whether lawmakers will be paid for this period of political purgatory. There are all sorts of matters being held up in Congress, sending a message of chaos and incompetence to foreign adversaries like Russia, China and Iran. 

More than six years after Trump’s successful presidential bid, and roughly two years after he was ousted from office, the tentacles of Trump’s governmental sabotage are live and in effect. Sure, he publicly endorsed McCarthy for speaker, but an overwhelming majority of the “Never Kevin” detractors in the House GOP caucus are lawmakers whose campaigns were backed by Trump. 

Among them are Eli Crane of Arizona, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Byron Donalds of Florida, Andrew Clyde of Georgia and more than a dozen others. They're all mere appendages of the anti-government monster Trump has enlivened in the GOP. 

It’s still unclear precisely what this group wants, or whether they want anything other than McCarthy’s demise. But the concessions they’ve garnered from him have severely weakened the speakership for the coming term, making it seem all but certain that no legislation of consequence will be passed over the next two years (barring a political miracle). And that seemingly destroys the potential for legislation that may be needed to respond to any number of national crises that could happen in that time span. I don't regret my enthusiasm in seeing the GOP in disarray, but another part of me has watched this week’s happenings through the same lens I used to observe the Jan. 6, 2021, mayhem.

Except, to me, a key difference is that this attempted, extremist power grab has succeeded in grinding Congress to a halt for several days now, a victory the Jan. 6 rioters could only dream about. 

After Jan. 6, I remember reading accounts of various leaders in Russia, China and Iran all gloating over America’s political chaos, and the scene of operations being brought to a standstill. I have to imagine they’re pretty happy now, as well.