Chaos in the House picked up where January 6th left off
Kevin McCarthy (Photo by Stefani Reynolds for AFP)

Laughing at Republicans is fun, especially when Republicans seem to go out of their way to be so laughable.

Who can’t enjoy a raging Marjorie Taylor Greene swinging her rhetorical kettlebell at the barely reelected Lauren Boebert?

Or Kevin McCarthy being served a steaming bowl of karma after spending two years sucking up to Donald Trump?

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Or Donald Trump failing to sway a single dissenter?

You’re probably AI if you 'can't’ laugh at the House Republicans becoming the first majority not to elect a speaker on the first ballot and then repeating that feat 13 more times.

But it’s crucial to remember that what went on at our nation’s Capitol was less politics-as-usual and more a continuation of J6.

He’s already broken

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Of the 20 Republicans who repeatedly voted against Kevin McCarthy, most are democracy deniers who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election and nearly all the incumbents in this herd refused to certify the election on January 6th, 2021, after their fellow Trump supporters beat hundreds of cops, sacked the Capitol building and demanded the neck of Mike Pence.

Press coverage of the 20’s demands and the load of concessions McCarthy offered them generally misses the larger insurrectionist point here: These Republicans genuinely seem to hate Kevin McCarthy. They don’t fear him. They have him by the teeth.

They weren't trying to break him.

He was already broken.

His agenda is their agenda. He promised to demand cuts to America’s beloved Medicare and Social Security programs in exchange for raising the debt limit. He showed a willingness to add to other hard-right commands, like defunding the Department of Justice’s investigations into Trump, to his list of risible demands.

But absolute humiliation wasn’t enough.

The 20 wanted a speaker they could trust to make their demands and carry through on their threat to actually default on America’s debt and propel the global economy into a massive economic crisis.

They knew McCarthy was willing to raise the gun to his own head and hold himself hostage by threatening to blow up our economy.

But are they sure he won’t pull the trigger?

Any patriot would refuse to hand Vladimir Putin, President Xi and all enemies of America’s leadership a massive victory with the first purposeful default on our debt in American history.

Many argue that refusing to pay our debt is a direct violation of the 14th amendment, which coincidentally also bars insurrectionists from holding public office. They argue that because that’s exactly what the text says, not that any of these “originalists” care.

But the 20 weren’t worried about McCarthy’s patriotism or fealty to our constitution. They were worried he’ll back off when his big donors see large portions of their wealth threatened by the market chaos that any serious threat of a default is almost certain to summon.


McCarthy’s only superpower is fundraising. This requires a slavish devotion to the whims or whining of America’s oligarchs.

While the billionaires love the idea of spending cuts and letting rich dudes get away with crimes, they don’t love the idea of a sudden and precipitous market collapse with no real upside for them.

Don’t get me wrong.

The Republican Party and its corporate sponsors would welcome a recession, especially one that deflates the best job market of our lifetimes. But what they don't love is an unprecedented and unpredictable blow to asset values, which could bring sudden and possibly irreparable harm to those who build their wealth and secure their financing by the holding of assets – namely the very, very rich.

Voters would know which party to blame and the big donors would be far less likely to save Republicans from the voters’ wrath.

This is a nightmare-in-waiting for McCarthy. He cares about power only.

His wranglings were all about preventing him from losing the job he failed to get 14 straight times, and what he gave away to clinch it on the 15th virtually guarantees a chaotic 118th Congress.

Could he blow up the global economy to keep his power?


But McCarthy had to save room to do what worms do.


The 20 made it clear to any GOP speaker that they only want two things: to discover more Hunter Biden nudes and to obstruct. They want to obstruct the investigations into Trump, they want to obstruct the economy and they want to obstruct democracy.

Notably, “obstruction” is the crime that hundreds of participants in the attempted paramilitary takeover have been charged with.

Marcy Wheeler, who has followed the criminal proceedings around J6 closer than anyone, has continually made the case that “obstruction” remains a charge Donald Trump could face himself.

By any means

There’s a clear line from the legislative obstruction under Mitch McConnell to criminal obstruction by Trump and his followers. Both sides have turned it into an art form. But what we’re seeing in Washington is part of the attempt to blur those lines.

These 20 Republicans want the same thing Trump wants, even if Trump doesn’t back their cause directly. They want absolute rule and the power to blow up the ball if they can’t set the rules of the game.

They want this though they are just a thin slice of a party that barely controls one chamber of the Congress and that hasn’t won the presidential popular vote since years before the iPhone was released.

They want the power to obstruct the will of the people and, though they’re using legislative means this time, they’ve already proven it’s all part of the same effort to overturn democracy by any means.

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