George Santos was greeted on the floor of the United States House of Representatives on Tuesday and quickly voted for the first time for Kevin McCarthy to be the next Speaker of the House.
That vote from the scandal-ridden New York representative-elect was not enough to save McCarthy from the humiliation of losing that vote. And things went from bad to worse for McCarthy as the vote progressed. While maintaining Santos’ loyalty, McCarthy lost the support of 19 right-wing members of his own caucus in the first speaking test, and the same numbers in a second test several hours later. In a third vote before members dropped out for the day, the number of Republican dissenters rose to 20.
It was the most chaotic opening day of a new Congress since 1923, when a narrowly divided House voted nine times before Speaker Frederick Huntington Gillett (R-Mass.) was re-elected to the top job. It could be just as tough for McCarthy, who actually finished behind House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York in all three presidential votes. Only the fact that a candidate needed a clear majority, in this case 218 votes, prevented Jeffries from claiming the presidency and kept McCarthy in the running.
The chaos in the Republican ranks was the big story on Tuesday. But Santos was more than just a footnote. Republicans’ acceptance of The New Yorker as a voting member of their caucus confirmed that a win-at-all-costs sensitivity has now so infected the Republican Party that no sin is serious enough to merit a reprimand from its main members.
With a narrow majority and an unstable caucus, McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Elise Stefanik and the other members of the House Republican Caucus did not groan in objection to Santos’ arrival. The Long Island Republican, who was elected in November to represent a previously Democratic district, joined the vote for president even after a startling series of post-election investigations revealed he lied about his education, his religion, his work history, and just about everything he had discussed during the election campaign. Anyone serious about the U.S. experience knows the elected representative should have stepped down rather than show up Tuesday to vote on who will lead the chamber in the 118th Congress. It was even shredded on Fox News, where guest host Tulsi Gabbard, a former House member and Democratic presidential candidate, told The New Yorker, “My question is, aren’t you ashamed?” After Santos struggled to answer the question, Gabbard concluded by wondering if his constituents “could possibly trust your explanations when you’re not even really willing to admit to them the depth of your deception.”
But Santos didn’t just embarrass himself. He embarrassed McCarthy, Scalise and Stefanik on such a deep level that, in many ways, the newcomer defines the Republican Party as it has come together in 2023. Noting the enthusiasm with which Stefanik, a fellow new- Yorkers, Santos supported despite concerns that had surfaced about the candidate’s credibility, Rep. Ritchie Torres summed it up in to announce“The House Republican leadership is complicit in the fraud Santos perpetrated against the public.”
That complicity dates back to election season, in which top Republicans lined up to endorse Santos, who lost a previous House race in New York’s Third District but won in 2022. After accepting a formal endorsement of McCarthy in July, Santos tweeted, “Together, we will help preserve and protect the American Dream for generations to come. »
McCarthy’s endorsement of Santos as a candidate and his enthusiastic celebration of Santos’ election came back to haunt him. But, despite everything, the Republican leader and his associates refused to reprimand The New Yorker, let alone suggest that Santos should not take his seat.
Why? Because McCarthy, whose grip on the House Republican Caucus has never been firm, clearly believes he needs Santos.
The Republican majority in the US House is 222 to 212, with one Democratic seat vacant. Flip a handful of seats and the GOP is no longer in charge. Frightened by the prospect of losing even a single GOP vote, McCarthy declined to comment on Santos’ trials and tribulations. Even when the revelations reached absurd levels and Santos’ inability to defend himself became apparent, McCarthy remained silent. The same goes for Scalise and Stefanik.
McCarthy, an awkward political junkie who only rose to leadership after more capable Republicans quit or were defeated, was right to fear for his future. Tuesday’s trio of failed presidential votes left no doubt that he is the most incompetent House Republican leader in the party’s modern history. And that’s saying something, considering the fact that House Republicans were, for eight years, from the late 1990s through the 2000s, led by incompetent Illinois Rep. Dennis Hastert, who ended up trading his managerial position for a new career as a convicted criminal.
But it’s more than McCarthy. His entire management team has failed to lead when it comes to Santos. And they will continue to fail.
If and when McCarthy is relegated to the dustbin of history as a Republican leader who could not lead his caucus, it is almost certain that he will be replaced by another Republican who suffers from the same lack of conscience. And George Santos will continue to serve in the Republican House of Shame.