Opinion: GOP infighting clouds new House majority

This should be a very happy holiday time for Republicans in Congress as the GOP gets ready to take charge of the U.S. House in early January.

But instead of rallying behind the party’s agenda, House Republicans could be on the verge of backing into a messy rebellion against House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The fight is being led by a group of conservatives — derided by some as ‘Republican kamikazes’ — who have threatened to block McCarthy’s election as Speaker of the House unless he agrees to a series of procedural changes which would water down the Speaker’s powers.

With a narrow majority, it would only take five GOP holdouts to derail McCarthy’s bid when the vote for Speaker is taken on Jan. 3.

And right now, there are warning signs all over the place.

For example, U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, was one of seven GOP conservatives who recently called for a rule which would allow for a vote at any time to boot out a Speaker.

“Leader McCarthy is a friend,” Clyde said in a statement, but Clyde then added, ‘accountability of the Speaker to the membership is paramount.’

In other words — I want the right to get rid of you at any time, and if you don’t accept my ideas — I might not vote for you to be Speaker in the first place.

Normally, one would expect to find U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, siding with conservative agitators in the House. But for weeks, she’s been working behind the scenes on behalf of McCarthy.

“Our GOP Conference must unite behind Speaker-elect Kevin McCarthy,” the Georgia Republican declared.

But the alliance with Greene has not paid off yet for McCarthy, as his bid for Speaker remains in GOP limbo with the Christmas break almost here.

In a perfect world, the past few weeks on Capitol Hill would have been filled with non-stop news about McCarthy’s legislative plan — what he dubbed the ‘Commitment to America’ — as well as the selection of a roster of newly-minted GOP committee chairs.

Instead, the Capitol has been filled with daily intrigue about McCarthy’s vote count, pushing prep work on the GOP agenda off to the side, and even delaying the selection of key committee leaders.

Republicans now have just over two weeks to decide whether it’s better to advance their agenda or have a slugfest on the floor of the House.

Maybe it will all work out in the end. But it’s not how you would usually design the start of a new majority on Capitol Hill.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com