On Tuesday, ahead of the swearing in of the new Republican House majority, the Huffington Post laid out how a small group of far-right lawmakers are poised to wield total power in the chamber — making Republican leadership, including Kevin McCarthy even if he manages to be elected Speaker, effectively subservient to their demands.
"With House Republicans holding just a four-vote majority, the influence of the party’s far right will only grow in the new Congress as each GOP vote holds sway. As Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute observed to The New Yorker recently, 'When your margin is small, the problem is you’re held hostage,'" reported Matt Shuham and Christopher Mathias. "The hostage takers, in this case — a far-right coterie that includes Biggs as well as Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Paul Gosar (Ariz.) — don’t all necessarily oppose McCarthy’s speakership. Greene has endorsed him and received significant concessions."
"But taken together, the group has a real opportunity to shift the debate to the right on key issues: Laws they’ve sponsored include the criminalization of doctors who provide gender-affirming surgery to trans kids and a change in a statute to allow the government to jail families seeking asylum, including children, as their cases proceed through immigration court," said the report. "They’ll be able to push this cruel agenda in part by leveraging their millions of followers on various social media platforms. As much as they are politicians and members of Congress, they are also something perhaps more powerful: influencers."
As the report noted, many of these lawmakers have a nationwide audience — Greene alone has 1.7 million followers on her official account, and several of them operate on alternate platforms used by the far right, like Truth Social.
"The congressional far right frequently appears on programs that promote themselves as being to the right of Fox News," said the report. "Biggs, Boebert, [Gaetz] and Greene made a combined 96 appearances on prime-time One America News Network (OANN) programs in 2022, according to a tally that Media Matters, a media watchdog group, provided to HuffPost. OANN is a deeply disreputable media outlet that promoted some of the most pernicious conspiracy theories of the Trump era, including those about LGBTQ people, the COVID pandemic and the 2020 presidential election."
All of this comes as McCarthy's path to even being elected Speaker in this tight majority is uncertain, with Biggs and Gaetz part of a five-member "Never Kevin" bloc that has vowed to vote against him — a threat that if they follow through on, would be enough to deny him 218 seats. McCarthy's allies in turn have sworn not to let this group control the caucus and are still fighting for him.