Jan 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The Mischief Makers

Illustration of a woman standing at a podium with a smiley face spray painted on the front of it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Axios spoke with a number of congressional sources about whom they find to be the most unpredictable and headache-inducing. Here's what they said:


  • Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia): The freshman has promoted a series of QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theories rivaling former Rep. Steve King's talk of white supremacy.
  • Matt Gaetz (Florida): Actively campaigning against GOP Caucus chair Liz Cheney, and unafraid of undermining House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
  • Thomas Massie (Kentucky): He made a lot of enemies by repeatedly objecting to coronavirus relief legislation and forcing members to travel back to Washington amid the pandemic to deal with his dissension.
  • Louie Gohmert (Texas): He doesn't have much influence, but his antics — such suing Vice President Mike Pence in federal court as part of a bizarre and futile bid to force him to discard President Biden's electors — have generated heartburn for leadership.
  • Mo Brooks (Alabama): True troublemaker. Led the push to oppose certifying President Biden's victory.


  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) and the other members of “The Squad”: Ilhan Omar (Minnesota), Rashida Tlaib (Michigan) and Ayanna Pressley (Massachusetts): They have broken with leadership on crucial votes in their collective effort to shift the Democratic Party leftward.
  • Jamaal Bowman (New York): "The Squad" bolstered its standing by expanding its team with freshmen who had replaced veteran lawmakers. Bowman joined the others in voting against a waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as Defense secretary.
  • Cori Bush (Missouri): She pushed back against the highest-profile Democrat, former President Barack Obama, after he dismissed "defund-the-police" as a slogan.

Be smart: “The Squad” is an obvious target considering their history in the Democratic caucus, but some members of the cohort with military and intelligence backgrounds also have shown they’ll buck leadership.

  • Jared Golden (Maine): He is one of two Democrats who voted against re-electing House Speaker Pelosi this month. He said it was time for new leaders “if leadership has not been delivering the results that you think are critical to the future of the country.”
  • Conor Lamb (Pennsylvania): He joined Golden in voting against Pelosi for speaker for the second time since she reclaimed the position in 2019.

What they're saying: “As the speaker frequently says, ‘Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power,'" Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hamill told Axios. "This rudimentary media exercise is not a way to understand how the House Democratic caucus operates, or how our members will come together to get the job done for the American people."

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