Oct 26, 2023 - Politics & Policy

House GOP's internal honeymoon starts to crumble

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Photo: Tom Brenner for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The House GOP's honeymoon won't last long after the election of Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), and some think it might take a new batch of Republicans to restore long-term peace.

Why it matters: Republicans privately acknowledge it will be extremely difficult for some members to get past the new grudges created during the 22-day speaker vacancy.

  • "Ultimately what may end up happening is you have to get back in the minority to clean the House," one GOP lawmaker said of what may need to happen for members to get past the tensions.
  • "You're going to probably lose 20 Republican members so you get a whole crop and you've got to reeducate."
  • Former Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) called the ouster of former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "perhaps the dumbest set of politics for decision-making a majority party in this institution could make."

Zoom in: The infighting was back on Thursday, with House Ways and Means Chair Jason Smith (R-Mo.) slamming Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) for introducing the motion to vacate that ousted McCarthy.

  • "Matt Gaetz is accusing Kevin McCarthy for everything that he's doing. The blood is on his hands for 22 wasted days for him to join with 100% of the Democrat Party to remove the speaker of the House. He's all about himself," Smith said during a radio appearance on Thursday.
  • Gaetz has repeatedly accused McCarthy of dragging out the process of selecting a new speaker to retain power, and on Thursday he called Smith "dishonest" on his podcast.

Zoom out: Members have accused different lawmakers and their allies of kneecapping each other to tank candidates.

  • A portion of the conference was outraged at McCarthy and House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan, accusing them of derailing House Majority Leader Steve Scalise's (R-La.) speaker nomination.
  • Jordan critics slammed the Ohio Republican's pressure tactics during his own nomination. They accused his allies of flooding the phone lines and social media of GOP defectors. Some lawmakers and their families reported receiving death threats.
  • Former President Trump and a handful of conservatives then attacked House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), accusing him of not being conservative enough. Emmer swiftly dropped out of the race.

The other side: "The Republican conference is united and we are absolutely excited with the leadership of the House with Speaker Johnson and Leader Scalise. Both men and their offices have been longtime, great friends with Chairman Jordan and our office and, after years of collaboration together, we look forward to our continued partnership with them," Jordan spokesperson Russell Dye told Axios.

The bottom line: Conservatives have their own frustrations.

  • Some are frustrated at Jordan: "Among our members, absolutely [Jordan has lost respect] because they're just like what is this? Since when are you and Kevin on the same page?," one House conservative told Axios.
  • Others pushed back at moderates: "The thing that drives me insane is we have these hypocrites who want to come to the mic and talk about how we have elected a designee and we should support them on the floor. These are the same people who — when we had a [speaker] designee Jordan —were voting against him on the floor," Rep. Cory Mills (R-Fla.) told Axios shortly before Emmer dropped out of the race.
Go deeper