Kevin Forbid | Crooked Media
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January 05, 2023
Positively Dreadful
Kevin Forbid

In This Episode

Republicans have failed to elect a speaker of the House, and the ensuing crisis—which has effectively dissolved Congress—is a harbinger of what to expect over the next two years. When you imagine the future speaker trying to get 218 votes to raise the debt limit, or renew aid to Ukraine, our schadenfreude over the ramshackle Republican conference gives way to genuine alarm. It’ll be Hakeem Jeffries’ job to stand against that juggernaut of corruption and dysfunction and hostage taking. Will Jeffries and his lieutenants be an effective opposition? Can they improve on the leadership team that just stepped down? Is there anything even a brilliant leadership team can do to stop this Republican majority from breaking everything in sight? Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent joins host Brian Beutler to discuss the danger Republicans have placed all of us in, and what optimal resistance to them looks like.

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

 

Brian Beutler: Happy New Year, everyone. Welcome to Positively Dreadful with me your host, Brian Beutler. We’ve got an interesting situation in our hands as we record this episode, which is that for the first time in 100 years, we’ve had a protracted period where there’s no Speaker of the House. 

 

[news clip]: We have a breaking news update now on what has become an historic showdown on Capitol Hill. Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy could not win enough of his own party’s votes to be elected speaker of the House. 

 

[news clip]:  Frustration growing in the House of Representatives, where members still haven’t voted on a new speaker of the House. 

 

[news clip]: Overnight sources say Kevin McCarthy offered key new concessions, hoping to sway far right Republican holdouts to cast their vote for him as speaker. We will not vote for him if people think they’re stubborn when they think they’re not going to get the [?] that obviously they wont. But it’s going to be so much worse than that. You know, they are enemies. They have they have made it clear that they prefer a Democrat agenda and a Republican. 

 

[news clip]: If you want to drain the swamp, you cannot put the biggest alligator in charge of the exercise. I’m a Florida man and I know of what I speak. 

 

Brian Beutler: And for all intents and purposes, that means there’s no House of Representatives at all because the members who were elected or reelected in November can’t be sworn in until the House elects a speaker. So normally, this is all a pro forma exercise, right? Like the old Congress adjourns maybe a few hours go by while the new Congress goes through the ceremonial ritual of electing their speaker. And that person is basically always the leader of the majority caucus. But this time, a band of about 20 House Republican reactionaries, nearly all of whom were supporters of the January 6th insurrection, have refused to vote for the GOP leader, Kevin McCarthy. They’ve gone through multiple ballots over two days now, and the number of Republican defectors has actually grown a bit, which creates this somewhat hilarious situation where the Democratic leader who’s Hakeem Jeffries has repeatedly won more votes for speaker than the leader of the majority Republicans. 

 

[clip of Hakeem Jeffries]: We are prepared to try to find common ground with the other side of the aisle to solve problems on behalf of the American people. But we don’t have a willing partner. And House Republicans. 

 

Brian Beutler: But you need absolute majority under current rules to get the job. And so there’s no speaker. And so the jockeying continues. So, again, all of this is as of Wednesday afternoon, on January 4th. And by the time you listen on Friday or afterward, the situation, the standoff, whatever you want to call it, it might be resolved. We can’t predict the future, but I think we can extrapolate pretty well from here that however it’s resolved that this will have an impact or it’s like a microcosm for national politics in the U.S. and what that will be like for the next two years. So along one line, there’s this somewhat fantastical West Wing style scenario where some non crazy Republicans reached a breaking point and nominate another non crazy Republican to be speaker. And then that person manages to get 218 votes with help from Democrats. And there are some very smart people who have been fixated on this scenario. And I think that’s because it’s basically the only way for the United States to avoid this inmates take taking over the asylum situation that’s unfolding right now. So a consensus candidate emerges. Democrats agree to vote for him in exchange for a few reasonable conditions, like no debt limit hostage taking, and then you get a somewhat stable government for two years. Every other scenario is both much likelier and much funnier, but also much more dangerous. McCarthy, with Donald Trump’s help, could wear down the insurgents and win. Or a Republican who has allies in both leadership and in the insurrection Caucus could emerge. Either way, you end up with insurrectionists in pole position for the next two years, the speaker will be someone else. But any time the speaker tries to do anything remotely sane or uncorrupted, the far right can move to dethrone him. And that’s a big problem when you consider what’s coming down the pike. What happens when it’s the House Speaker’s job to get 218 votes to raise the debt limit? What happens if the Justice Department indicts Donald Trump or some of his loyalists and the insurrectionists try to shut down the government or impeach the investigators or do whatever else they think they can do to stop it? What happens when aid to Ukraine expires? So that’s where the schadenfreude over the ramshackle Republican conference gives way to genuine alarm. And it’ll be Hakeem Jeffries job to stand against that juggernaut of corruption and dysfunction and hostage taking. And for the first time in almost two decades, we’ll get to see how someone from a younger generation handles an important job in Democratic leadership. And that raises some important questions in its own right. Will Jeffries and his lieutenants be an effective opposition? Can they improve on the leadership team that just stepped down? Is there anything even a brilliant leadership team can do to stop this Republican majority from just breaking everything? Some of those questions have clear answers. Others do not. And here with me this week to sort them out is Washington Post opinion writer Greg Sargent. Greg’s an old friend and friend of the pod and follows these issues as closely as I do. But I think he has a different view in some instances of what optimal resistance to Republicans should look like. So we have a lot to chew on. Greg, thanks for coming on the show. 

 

Greg Sargent: Thanks for having me on, Brian. 

 

Brian Beutler: So we’re admittedly flying a little blind here, so why don’t we start by making a low stakes prediction about how this ends and whether it’ll be over by the time anyone listens to us, bloviate about it. 

 

Greg Sargent: I think probably it ends up being Speaker Scalise. So I was just DMing with one of the quote unquote savviest reporters on the Hill who is about as close to this as anyone can possibly be. And he said convincingly, I just can’t see a way for McCarthy. It’s moving in the wrong direction. I think it’s going to be Scalise and I believe him. It’s hard to see how it turns around from McCarthy at this point, although you can envision it. Surprisingly, the insurrectionists and radicals really do seem to have some sort of genuinely unbridgeable divide with him, which I find a little hard to understand because he has gone about as far as anyone could possibly go to cover up the insurrection on Trump’s behalf and still have a chance of being, you know, the third most powerful in the country or, you know, second most powerful, I guess. So, you know, at this point, how do they get to yes?

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, I guess I just don’t have a sense. I mean, Steve Scalise, for anyone who followed politics in like the Obama years, was like one of the oiliest, most dishonest people who’s ascended to leadership. Like up there with McCarthy. But he also has this reputation, at least, of having been a Louisiana Republican who made his career by assuring other Louisiana Republicans that they could get everything they wanted from David Duke out of him without the overt ties to to, you know, the Ku Klux Klan or whatever. David Duke, without the baggage is how he reportedly referred to himself. And so, you know, this has come up once or twice since that information about Steve Scalise came to light. And there’s never been like a real reckoning because in general, there hasn’t had to be like a public vote by other House Republicans on his fitness to have to have a leadership job. And suddenly they’re going to have to vote for him to be speaker. And so, like you have these 20 Republicans on the far right who are voting against McCarthy because of their their reasons. If you put Steve Scalise up for a vote, can he get 218 when hopefully you would imagine Democrats begin brandishing this history. So like Scalise might have problems or, you know, Republicans are going to have to vote for David Duke without the baggage and then live with that for the next election, or there’s going to have to be what someone who’s who’s not in leadership right now, but has some truck with both the far right and the leadership who who can like sneak in and everyone will just out of exhaustion vote for, vote for them. I guess that’s my read of the situation. 

 

Greg Sargent: Well, I guess I don’t really know how much the identity of the replacement candidate matters, right? I mean, if if these if the radicals and obstructionists really want a scalp just to sort of declare their power, which I think is a big part of this. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Greg Sargent: Then even Scalise is a victory for them just simply because McCarthy lost. 

 

Brian Beutler: So I’ve been I’ve been thinking like there are Republicans like Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who I think can walk in both worlds, and they don’t have the Steve Scalise David Duke baggage. And I keep wondering if somebody like that might be the only way to to resolve this situation. But at some point, their names have to be thrown in. You know, McCarthy has to give up the ghost and and maybe pick someone. But both factions are sort of using this Gingrich-esque never back down like. No enemies. I don’t know what you want to call it. Just like. Like this un flinching school of politics against each other. And so as long as the 20 are saying no to McCarthy and as long as McCarthy and his supporters are saying I’m not going to back down. It’s hard to know when anyone other than him can sneak in there. 

 

Greg Sargent: Yeah, I would agree. And by the way, it’s kind of funny to think that that Scalise, of all people with all the baggage you mentioned, is actually potentially more of a consensus candidate than Kevin McCarthy is. I guess that says a whole lot about what’s happened to the Republican caucus in recent years. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Greg Sargent: It’s interesting that you bring up Gingrich, by the way, because he really is kind of the source of all of this, right? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Greg Sargent: You know, it all goes back to his kind of transformation of the of the kind of Republican battle plan for politics and a kind of a national scorched earth. Take no prisoners. The other side is unremittingly evil. And all any and all tactics against them are justified kind of politics. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yep. I mean, I mean, think about that. Since before everything melted down on Tuesday that like that that we’re seeing Republicans wield their their Gingrich style politics against each other. And it’s like it’s very satisfying in some ways to watch them hoist by their own petard. But also, I mean, it’s kind of scary because eventually this will resolve one way or another, and then they’re going to be in charge and they’re going to you know, they’re going to be back out for blood, but this time it’ll be against the rest of the country. I guess I, I should probably make the record reflect that my last newsletter of the year was a bunch of predictions for 2023. All low stakes. Like I meant for them to not be very hard predictions, but one of them was included Kevin McCarthy getting elected speaker on the first ballot in exchange for setting up like a super low threshold for kicking him out of the job. And I was feeling pretty good about that prediction last week because he caved on that demand he gave them. He said, if you give me the speakership, you can depose me with basically like five votes. But obviously there’s egg all over my face now because we’re like on the fifth or sixth ballot now. And he’s definitely not the speaker yet. But like, you got to imagine that whoever comes in in his place, or if he manages to get things sorted out so that he doesn’t have twenty defectors anymore, that like that concession is going to stand. And the same people who have basically dissolved the House of Representatives for two days now will have. But pretty dramatic veto power over anything. Whoever the speaker is tries to do, you know, just in terms of like basic governing for the country. 

 

Greg Sargent: Yeah, well, I don’t think you should be too hard on yourself for getting that one wrong, because that particular concession I think you’re pointing to something really important here. That particular concession is in many ways a lot bigger than people have really noticed. Right. If that sort of veto threat that you’re talking about actually empowers those guys to dictate all kinds of crazy things like a debt limit showdown or attempts to defund prosecutions of Trump and so forth and so on, because at any point they can just point the gun at the leadership’s head and say, if you don’t do this, we’re going to call, you’re going to five of us are going to call for this vote and then we’re going to vote against you. Now, I don’t know what Democrats— 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Greg Sargent: —would do in that situation, but it’s it’s clearly a major Howitzer to be pointing at the head of the leadership. And as you point out, it seems to me that it stands pretty much no matter who’s in there. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. And I mean, the other half of the prediction I made was that McCarthy would make it till September, which is when the debt limit has to be raised and the government has to be funded. And that he would you know, I don’t think anyone, even even the most, you know, anyone except like maybe Donald Trump himself would want to go down in history as the speaker that caused the United States to default on its debt and ruin the global economy and blah, blah, blah. And so that McCarthy would ultimately just put legislation on the floor. It would pass with Democratic votes. And then then he would lose the faith of, you know, 20, 40, 60 House Republicans and they would kick him out of office. I think that that’s still possible. But like, that’s starting to look like a best case scenario. [laughs] I guess like the best case scenario that people keep talking about, people like, you know, smart people, not just randos. Is is this idea that like a a consensus candidate will, you know, Speaker Fred Upton or Speaker John Kasich, do you totally discount. The idea that the other half of the Republican Party or the other faction of the Republican Party will get sick and tired of of the fighting between McCarthy and the House Freedom Caucus and say, all right, we’re going to we’re going have a Republican speaker, but it’s going to be someone who will negotiate with the Democrats. And and we’ll we’re going to we’re going to end this. 

 

Greg Sargent: Well, I wouldn’t totally discount anything, but here’s how I would ask the question. And maybe you can help me work this one through like how many House Republicans would vote for a Fred Upton right now? 

 

Brian Beutler: I don’t know, 60, 100? 

 

Greg Sargent: Yeah. And so you would have to see a situation in which that candidate, i.e., Upton or someone like that, made pretty tremendous concessions to Democrats in order to get the remaining 118 votes, don’t you think? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. Well, so, like, this is maybe the reason I find myself thinking we’re overwhelmingly likely to get a MAGA controlled speaker. And I also find it difficult to explain exactly why. But the fact that it seems so unlikely that John Kasich or whoever else, you know, couldn’t come out of the woodwork and become speaker, it seems like a good opportunity for Democrats to make the chaos stick, not just to McCarthy and Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz and the Freedom Caucus, but to the whole GOP. Like I thought, Hakeem Jeffries did a pretty nice job. He had a press conference after the meltdown on Tuesday, and and he said that Dems would vote for a governing partner, but not just to save Republicans from their own dysfunction. And I thought that that captured it pretty well. I think he could have driven the wedge a little bit deeper. And I mean this in a super constructive way, not just like why are Democrats always pulling their punches? I do think he did a good job of laying out, you know, what was happening in the GOP and where the Democrats proper role is. But to me, the situation reads like this, right? Like the Republicans who who’ve essentially dissolved the House of Representatives are the same ones who, along with Trump, cost Republicans a clear victory in the election. And now that same that same group of people is trying to hijack its own party into doubling down on the exact same politics. Right. And it’s crazy. But but they’re actually trying like they’re saying no to Kevin McCarthy. We are going to get a speaker who agrees with us and will run the House in our image. And I think the question is, what would it take from the other side of the GOP conference to get the West Wing John Kasich Fred Upton scenario off the ground? And the answer is just any kind of similar effort, right? Like Jeffrey said, give us a governing partner and we’ll talk. But but so far, it’s like Wednesday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time and that isn’t happening. And that means that the MAGA people are still in control. So to me, it’s like another in a long line of opportunities for the mainstream of the GOP to purge this MAGA faction. And this time it would be by crossing the aisle for a speaker candidate who can get 218 votes, not even crossing, not voting for a Republican, but one that gets elected with Democratic help. And it’s their unwillingness to reach out to Jeffries with some suggestion, some basis for negotiation that makes them complicit in the effort to install a MAGA speaker. And I mean, I think if you gave me like 20 minutes to workshop that I could probably whittle it down into a cleaner soundbite. But there’s a nuance  there that I think Jeffries should try to draw out, and that that puts the heat on the on the like, sort of only Kevin Republicans who seem totally paralyzed. And if they say, look, we’re we’re tired of this. The speaker’s going to be Republican, your grounds for negotiating what he or she won’t do are are limited because we’re not going to we are still the majority. I think Democrats could say, look, we are not going to vote for somebody who holds the country hostage, the debt limit fight or tries to sabotage criminal investigations. So that has to be in the rules or whatever that you can’t do that. But I think beyond that, like, it’s not like I don’t think Hakeem Jeffries would say we get to, you know, equal representation on committees or we you know, we set spending levels where we want them or anything like that. Like it would still be a Republican House. It would be I think it would be a confession that their what they view as the limits of power when they don’t control the whole government have been like blown completely out of whack and corrupted and that they the last ten or 12 years that they’ve spent doing this hostage taking politics has led them into this dead end, and they can’t do it anymore. But like they haven’t been getting anything out of it except for just hurting the country for the whole time anyway. So I don’t think they’d be losing anything. They would just it would be like it would be like picking a fight and then getting punched in the nose. And so you lose a fight and you’re embarrassed. But that’s not saying that they made a concession. They’re just like, all right, we’re not going to do that anymore, you know? And like, it doesn’t look like Biden’s agenda is still probably dead under that under that state of affairs. It just means that, like for the next two years. Things aren’t going to be crazy. It’ll be like the last two weeks of 2022 in the Senate where they passed the appropriations bill and did all this stuff on a bipartisan basis. None of it super, you know, transformational in nature, but. Just competent. Right. I mean, I. I don’t think any of that’s going to happen because of what I said. I think that the Republicans, even on the quote unquote, “left side” of the of the Republican conference, are complicit in this. And they’d rather have a modest speaker than risk voting for a speaker who would make those concessions. But like, as a matter of pure theoretical possibility, it’s no crazier than what Matt Gaetz is trying. But Matt Gaetz is trying and these guys aren’t. 

 

Greg Sargent: Yeah, no, listen, I mean, I think a concession is the wrong word. Like, if you think about the incentives for your typical House Republican, right, primary threats are the main thing they have to worry about. And Fox News coming after them. Maybe Tucker and Steve Bannon’s podcast or whatever or whatever deranged nonsense they worry about. So it seems to me that sort of some I would assume that are sort of fabled 60 to 100 House Republicans would be absolutely fine personally with disabling the debt limit. Right. But I think that’s throwing away that, quote unquote, “leverage” as they like to call it, which is a sick thing in and of itself. But, you know, it is what it is. Throwing that leverage away would subject them to tremendous attacks. Right. And I think that that’s something that’s hard for them to do. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. I mean, look like you can’t ever really if if the last couple of decades have taught us anything like count on even, you know, the quiet just kind of want to do their job and go home for the weekend. Republicans to just take a stand for what makes sense in some way and and do the right thing that they’re like they’re just always concerned about the primary challenge more than anything else. But like, I’m not sure most of those guys enjoy the constant, like live on the edge, push the country to the brink of calamity or civil war or whatever else. Like, that’s not I don’t know if they think that’s fun. And like, right now, these 20 Republicans are making like they’re they’re demonstrating just how much of a dead end that style of politics is. And, you know, if you could solve the collective action problem for them if through this fight over the speakership so that they could go out and say, we’re not giving anything up by just we’re not going to be assholes anymore, we’re not going to be assholes for no reason, that in ways that don’t get us anything, you know, once that once the you know, you break the nihilists from the people who are just trying to get through the day’s work, I don’t know how many that maybe it’s 180. Maybe it’s. But then they can go out and fight back against Fox News. It’s like you’re just telling lies to people. We can’t you know, you’re telling us that we need to destroy the country to get what we want. But that’s that’s just terrorism and and it doesn’t work in the end. So stop it. Right. Like and, you know, I’m I’m fantasizing now a little bit, too, because I want something to interrupt this dynamic between the Republican Party and the hard right in the United States so that you could just have like a boring. You know, divided government for two years without it being this constant nightmare. I mean, I would happily fold up the podcast and call it a career if, like if our interventions in politics could resolve this specific problem. It’s like the, you know, the animating source of most of our material. But but like, it’s also not a healthy environment to live through or to have to, like, marinate in all day. And it’s not you know, it’s not good for the country either. 

 

Greg Sargent: Hey, well, let me ask you something. What year was that in which Obama said the fever will break? 

 

Brian Beutler: He was saying it in the run up to the 2012 election. I forget when he first. Use the term. And, I mean, you know, I’m pretty sure he’s essentially copped to the reality that it’s not. It’s not elections by themselves that do it. I mean, or it’s a number of sub sequential elections in a row that, you know, three or four or five, not just two that would be required to to make the fever break. And as it turned out, like he won in 2008, then he lost in 2010, then he won in 2012. Then he lost in 2014. Then he lost in 2016. And so, you know, not he I mean, the Democrats. And and so if you’re if you’re part of the the febrile party. You can see that there’s always the next election where you can try again. And if you were kind of winning half of the elections, it’s not the elections that’s going to cause them to break. I mean, something else is going to have to do it. And or like a combination of factors, including election defeats and maybe it’s like running this extremism play so far that you just break your own party in half. And yes, maybe that manifests in in losing elections. But what it what it really is, is is like. Like there’s no structural integrity to the party at all. And people decide it’s better to kind of go in divided than than to keep doing the same thing over and over again. But yeah I’m I’m I’ve never been taking the Obama bet that the fever will break and I don’t have the recipe for breaking it but if it were to break, it would be very good. 

 

Greg Sargent: No question. I’ll tell you, I was I was really disheartened at the end of that just just a couple of weeks ago on the the Senate Sinema Tillis immigration reform package fell apart with virtually no Republican support at all because that’s actually kind of a good proxy issue for what you’re talking about, right? You’re kind of, you typical get along, go along Republican and someone who probably listens to the local chamber of commerce and, you know, the local kind of low level business oligarch types in their districts and areas and states. And these guys want immigration reform so bad. Right. And yet it’s just an uncrackable debate. You cannot get even a few Republicans to do really basic problem solving that their own donors and and that makes it sound corrupt and kind of vaguely it’s corporations that want this but you know, they people have to these these lawmakers have to minister to the interests in their districts and they are not being allowed to buy this kind of I don’t know how to characterize it, but this kind of bubble narrative that exists kind of separately and independently of everything that’s going on on the ground and yet kind of sucks up all the oxygen in our politics. 

 

Brian Beutler: And so say a little more just for the listeners benefit Kyrsten Sinema and Thom Tillis, a Democratic senator or independent senator, I guess from Arizona, Republican senator from North Carolina had an immigration bill. 

 

Greg Sargent: So it basically what it did is it tried to solve the asylum problem under which you have thousands and thousands of asylum seekers showing up at the border, many of whom, at least according to the Republican mythology, which isn’t entirely wrong, many of whom are trying to get into the country and come and disappear onto the interior while they wait for their hearings for asylum. So what the Sinema Tillis framework would have done is it would have kept the Title 42 limit on asylum seeking in place for a year, which means that the vast majority of people can’t apply at all if they show up. And in exchange for that, it would restructure the asylum system to kind of remove people who don’t qualify very quickly and throw a whole lot of money and resources at managing the kind of process by which they’re kind of put through the whole system with an eye toward making it much more efficient. And on top of that, it would have given the Border Patrol a big raise, too, and spent a whole bunch of money on border security. But this was kind of a new effort because what it would actually do is really kind of resolve the border, quote unquote, “crisis” in a way that many Republicans should be able to accept. And in the kind of Stephen Miller fueled, Steve Bannon, Fox News, Tucker Carlson universe, it just took on a meaning that had no kind of connection at all to what it actually is. And I guarantee you that that that 60 to 100 House Republicans, or 150. There are plenty of people in their districts who would like to see stuff like this pass. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, I mean, the canonical example of this was 2013, after Obama beat Mitt Romney, the Senate passed of actually like a comprehensive immigration reform bill and it would have passed in the House if the Republican speaker just put it on the floor. And for internal politics reasons, he just chose not to. So the bill died. Right. And if the bill had passed, you know, we can’t say what politics would have looked like, like would it have made a Trump like presidency more likely or less likely? I don’t know. I mean, but but what I do know is that, like the the dynamics driving Boehner, John Boehner not to put that bill on the floor are the same ones prevailing now, one is that there’s some Republicans who want a constant immigration crisis because they they that feeds their politics and it helps their election turnout and. And separately, leaders, whatever the Chamber of Commerce is saying, they want their jobs. And so they’re worried about the Stephen Millers of the world financing the primaries that will or the challenge to the speakership or whatever that will that will cost them their jobs. And like, you know, it’s one thing when you’re talking about a discretionary piece of legislation like an immigration reform bill. It’s another thing, if it’s like a funding for the government or raising the debt limit or aid to Ukraine. Eventually those things run out. And if you don’t renew them, you pass the crisis point. And and fortunately. John Boehner and Paul Ryan were unwilling to go past the point of no return on on those things. I mean, there were a couple of government shutdowns that were pretty brief, but not on the debt limit, which is like the big one. But we can I mean, Kevin McCarthy is even more venal than those guys. And we don’t we don’t know what he would do in like, whoever would replace him would presumably be even more in hock to to the MAGA wing of the party. So it’s a scary situation which which I think is a good way to tee up the question I had written, which is like, what are the big risks will be courting if we get a MAGA speaker? I know you’ve reported on this a lot. What worries you about either Speaker McCarthy or Speaker Scalise or whoever emerges? 

 

Greg Sargent: Well, I mean, the sort of the short term stuff is that they’re going to put on a kind of enormous circus of hearings designed to discredit the January six committee findings about the insurrection. And unfortunately, we’re already seeing signs in the media coverage that it’s going to be taken seriously. One thing that is driving me nuts and I would suspect that also will drive you nuts is is that many news accounts continue to refer to these things as a quote unquote “counter investigation” into January 6th. 

 

[news clip]: Jason, that’s why they didn’t want to let us on the committee in the first place, because they knew we would ask these questions and get to the information we ultimately got to. Really two things were going on here—

 

Greg Sargent: Automatically and at the outset giving it some sort of kind of patina of legitimacy that it certainly doesn’t deserve. So we’re going to see a lot of oxygen go to that. Then down the line, as you point out, like the ship really starts to hit the fan and kind of the late summer and early fall when government funding runs out. And and I guess the debt limit could happen over the summer, right? Isn’t that what it’s looking like? 

 

Brian Beutler: I think that they suspended the debt limit. Right. And the appropriations run on the normal fiscal cycle. So we’re looking at the end of end of September for both. 

 

Greg Sargent: Yeah, something like that. And so that to me is the biggest threat of all. Right. I mean, if if if Kevin McCarthy, who’s not MAGA enough to survive was willing to to allow five MAGA Republicans to essentially say, you know, burn the country down with a debt limit crisis or you’re out as speaker, then what’s the next guy going to be like? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Greg Sargent: I mean, I think that’s it in a nutshell, right? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yes. And I think having you know, we came really close with Boehner. I think it’s like sort of ancient history now because 2011 really was a fairly long time ago. But we were like within a few hours of defaulting on the debt. And and in that fight, Barack Obama conceded a lot of really terrible policy. He paid the ransom. You know, it’s not the first time. Right. And so, you know, I think the evidence of the next five years of the Obama presidency show that they learned that they made a mistake and they didn’t repeat it. And their approach after that was if there’s a must pass piece of legislation that’s just bedrock responsibility of a governing party to pass like appropriations, like a debt limit increase, we’re not going to give you anything for it. Like you’re going to have to vote for it. And if you just if you refuse to do it without without ransoms attached to it, we’re going to sit back and say, no, you’re you’re demanding ransoms and it’s going to be clear to everyone that you’re holding everything hostage because you’re going to be standing there refusing to do it unless you get your ransom. Right. So and then, like, lo and behold, that worked, right? Like every every instance thereafter where the government had to be. Or I guess I should be careful when I say this. Every instance thereafter where where the debt limit had to be raised. It got raised without courting another crisis like the one that unfolded in 2011. 

 

Greg Sargent: By the way, there’s something you could say about that strategy of closing the door, which I know you’ve written a lot about this, but in a kind of interesting twist, closing the door entirely actually works better politically, right? Because as soon as you’re— 

 

Brian Beutler: Oh yeah. 

 

Greg Sargent: —negotiating over the debt limit, it sort of somehow suggests in some way or other that there might be something reasonable or legitimate about what Republicans are doing. Whereas if the door is closed and you’re getting nothing but dead air, you’re passing must pass legislation, then it becomes harder for Republicans to portray it as a kind of conventional negotiating situation. 

 

Brian Beutler: Right. And and you’re saying, I’m not going to let you jerk me around, Right. Like, my my bottom line position is you don’t get to jerk me around. People will respect that more than like, okay, well, you’re making pretty hard demands. Let’s let’s talk. Right. And like, and like, you know, Nancy, Nancy Pelosi got this way back when George W Bush was trying to privatize Social Security. He didn’t have, he didn’t have a mechanism to force it. But he was like expecting Democrats to just negotiate with him. And she’s like, my offer is nothing. Right? And so then it’s like Republicans have to go around the country talking about how unfair it is that Democrats aren’t helping them privatize Social Security. They look weak. And it’s clear that their goal is to privatize Social Security. So they end up on the losing end of both things. And, you know, under Boehner, under John Boehner, after the first debt limit fight under Paul Ryan, I think that they kind of came to terms with the fact that, you know, they might be tempted in a government shutdown fight or a debt limit fight to try to attach these non-negotiable, like nonstarter demands to the legislation and then just realize that that they weren’t going to get anything that they wanted. And and so finally, quietly at the 11th hour, just concede and then tuck tail and go back to screaming about the border or whatever else. I think my fear right now is that, you know, they’re going to try the same thing. I think the Biden administration and Democrats on the Hill are going to say, we’re not giving you anything. My main fear is that whoever the speaker is will just choose to unleash chaos on the world and then let things deteriorate until there’s no easy way to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. And it will not be good in the in the immediate term for Republicans politically to be the source of that kind of devastation. But eventually the public will get frustrated by the long effort it would take to clean up the mess that they would make. And so I think that’s a real source of danger. And I think also there’s this other thing happening where the the insurrectionist faction, the in the House, they understand that this strategy of like, let’s attach poison pill provisions to the debt limit. And see if we can extort them from the Democrats. They understand that that’s a bad bet and that they’re not likely to work. So they’re out looking for new ways to create new authorities that allow them to unilaterally mess things up. Right. The the big idea, I think, that Matt Gaetz had is that is that he wants I don’t know if it’s the Freedom Caucus or just some new entity that the Freedom Caucus would control to have its own separate legal authority from like the House Republican Conference or the House of Representatives per se. And they want this to be able to file frivolous lawsuits of the kind Donald Trump has filed in order to stymie criminal investigations of himself. Right. And they want that because they want to help Trump avoid criminal investigation. I think some of them are under criminal investigation. So they want to be able to to spoil the own investigation themselves. And, you know, some of them are doing it on behalf of the January six insurrectionists and, you know, credentially, I think it would be completely insane for Kevin McCarthy or anyone else to yield, to split the legal authority of the of the House in half and just give half of it to Matt Gaetz. But like, I think McCarthy might do it because he’s so weak and he just doesn’t give a shit about anything other than capturing the speakership and like all of his lawyers might resign. But then he gets to be speaker, and then what happens to the special counsel investigations? Like do they can they even operate in a world where every single thing they do gets, you know, a new lawsuit filed with an Aileen Cannon type right wing judge somewhere who will then try to make the investigation stop? I don’t I mean, who knows? 

 

Greg Sargent: I mean, I guess what I would say to that is that the lesson of the last year or so has been that they can slow things down. But I think we have to be we have to be pretty pleased with how things have gone generally right. Because if you think back to a year ago, right, the picture looked like it wasn’t even certain whether law enforcement would blink in the face of Trump’s threats of violence. Right. He was threatening to unleash violence on the country if if the investigations, criminal investigations into him went forward. Then they had the, you know, the judge step in and to do Trump’s bidding and so forth. But what I mean, that stuff got ground to a halt pretty quick. And by all indications, those investigations are moving pretty aggressively. So I think really that sort of procedural stuff can only slow things down. I mean, that’s bad, but it’s not as bad as it could be. And I got a few I got to say that generally speaking, it feels to me like there’s real momentum against Trump in the legal arena. 

 

Brian Beutler: I kind of feel that, too. But, you know, they’re trying to they’re working together to try to to try to. You know, get back in the game of of stopping. Merrick Garland of the the special counsel. I think they’re worried about their own risk. And so they’re going to get more and more extreme in their efforts to undo those investigations. 

 

Greg Sargent: Well you asked what I was worried about, this is something I’m worried about, right. Don’t you think that the efforts to defund investigations or potentially by then prosecutions of Trump could really get caught up in debt limit and or government shutdown fights? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yes. I mean, I think that just like any other rider to any other appropriations bill or debt limit fight, they could they could try to defund Merrick Garland’s salary or eliminate the special counsel, or just say no investigation of Donald Trump and make that a, you know, demand for the debt limit. But I think that they know that if Democrats have this posture, we’re not negotiating. No, no, no hostages, no ransoms, no nothing. That in the final analysis, they’re going to lose. And so that’s why they’re that’s why they’re looking for these sort of more circuitous ways to to make it impossible for anyone investigating them for any crimes they may have committed to do their job. And I mean, it’s a creative solution. And it’s also, I think, entirely within Kevin McCarthy’s power to determine whether it comes into existence. I mean, I freely admit I have no idea how whether it slows down the investigations or makes them just impossible to conduct. I don’t I just don’t know. But I know that that’s what they’re trying and I know it matters to them. And it’s I you know, we’ll see. Maybe by Friday, this will all have been resolved. And smarter legal thinkers than us will have like opined about what it means for for the Trump investigations. But they’re trying to stop them. And yeah so let’s talk cheap for a bit about Hakeem Jeffries. What’s your sense of the guy? Is he the right guy for the moment? 

 

Greg Sargent: Well, so I think he’s really kind of schooled in the Pelosi slash 2018 school of politics, which you’ve written a lot about, because if you remember, he was pretty deeply involved in the 2018 House takeover. Right. So my sense is that he’s still kind of in that place where they’re not quite willing to recognize the need to rejigger the underlying communications strategies and overall postures to kind of adjust to the new media reality and the new reality of the reactionary right. But as you pointed out earlier, he’s he’s he’s younger and maybe potentially a little bit more easily influenced in that kind of direction. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah, I you know, I’m concerned about the extent to which the outgoing leadership just anointed the incoming leadership. And obviously they did so because they they trust the the the newer, younger leaders to basically do things the same way. I our friend Frank Foer just wrote a destroyer a defense of the gerontocracy which I think was mostly just mostly defense of the last Congress his legislative accomplishments and Nancy Pelosi’s unique skill as a as a vote getter, which are obviously super important skills for legislative leaders, and especially when one party controls a governing trifecta. I think it doesn’t speak to the more abstract questions that you were just raising about, like how do you organize the Democratic Party to best oppose this dangerous GOP? And that’s where I think the shortcomings of the outgoing House leadership team. They were mostly confined to that realm. And I think that’s also important. And so, like, where is Jeffries on that stuff? To me, I mean, I think he’s clearly just a much better communicator than Pelosi, like trial attorney. You know, he’s more more composed when he is in front of the cameras than she is. I think he’s got a he’s got a stronger taste for the jugular in a partisan sense, which will also both of those things will serve him well. He’s he’s also coming in when the job is is easiest, right? Like it’s just easier to be the House minority leader than it is to be the speaker of the House. But as you say, you know, he he was trained by the by the by the outgoing leaders. And he’s been a real attack dog at times against House progressives. And I think that will serve him poorly over time, particularly if he becomes speaker one day. And how does that all shake shake out? I mean, I think for the time being, he has a lot he has a lot of advantages that that I think Pelosi didn’t in her last run as speaker because he’s going to be the minority leader. And basically all she’s got to do is what he’s been doing for the last couple of days. I mean, that’s that’s a big part of the job is just keep Democrats united against the craziness on the other side and then message well, about what what it all means. In the longer run I guess I worry about, you know, what he thinks ultimately makes Democrats a successful party against Republicans. And, you know, it’s interesting that he’s like he’s a New York Democrat. I don’t want to I don’t want to pin the failures of New York Democrats on Hakeem Jeffries because they aren’t really his fault. But but there’s there’s a freak show subplot in the House Republican Conference right now with this Rep elect named George Santos, who for for people who tuned out over the holidays, is this complete fraudster, right, who managed to flip a New York seat despite the fact that, like he’d lied about everything that ever happened in his life, presumably, and everyone knew he was lying about everything that he’d ever done in life and what his racial identity was and where his money came from. Just everything. Right. And if you look at the Democratic Campaign Committees opposition research manual on Santos, I think you get a sense of why they took a pass on that stuff, how he was able to sneak in and win that race and that manual, it starts with Santos, his support for the insurrection, which I think is a good I mean, that served Democrats. Well in general to focus on Republicans who are pro insurrection. But then from there, it’s a page after page of like George Santos will be bad for your kitchen table concerns rights coming for your Social Security’s coming for your prescription drugs. And then several pages in, they finally get to oh, and also everything he’s ever said about himself is a lie. And Hakeem Jeffries didn’t write this manual, right? Like, I’m not saying Hakeem Jeffries is to blame for George Santos be. But. But. Yes, but I think he may have. The same mindset that economic policy critiques are magical and they’re so effective that you may as well shrug it off if you happened to luck into an opponent who’s a thief and a crook. Right. I think we’re I think we’re seeing now in the reaction to Santos and also how the 2022 midterms shook out that it’s actually the other way around. And hopefully that means when Democrats have opportunities to shine a light on unjust, raw Republican corruption, which is still completely rampant, they realized that that’s a better political bet than like, hey, they’re coming for your prescription drugs. And I hope almost as much as Jefferies. I hope Senate Democrats are taking that to heart because they’re going to be the ones that have subpoena power so they can actually focus on that stuff. But eventually, Hakeem Jeffries is going to have a choice to make. And I don’t know what when it’s going to happen or what the circumstances are going to be or how there’s going to be party wide or just one race where they’re going to have to make a decision like, what is the best way to turn the public against this bad guy? Is it because he has a conventional Republican policy agenda or is it because he’s a criminal? And I don’t know. I don’t I don’t know where Hakeem Jeffries falls on that. Like, I don’t know where he was when Nancy Pelosi was trying to push back aggressive oversight in 2019 and 2020, trying to resist any effort to impeach Donald Trump. I mean, obviously they did impeach Donald Trump, but like it was a sort of caucus unity box checking thing that she realized she had to do. Not like a she was driven by the the insight that this would be good politics to shine a light on how how how corrupt Democrats were. I think it’s a big question of where is Jeffries on that score? And if he’s closer to where I am [laughs] I think things are going to work out great. If he’s if he’s close to where the old leadership team was, I think that we’re going to just repeat the George Santo cycle over and over again, where you end up losing elections to beatable crooks. And I mean, this is a good reporting project, I guess for one of us or someone, someone else is like is like, what is what is Hakeem Jeffries think of that. Everything else seems to be like he got all the Democrats lined up behind him to to be minority leader. He’s he’s handling the McCarthy situation really very well. He had, you know, a a good he’s doing a good job, I think, of trying to to crack the Republican Party in half over this fight that they’re having. And he’s you know, he’s like he’s got some swagger when he when he gives when he makes sort of partisan talking points in front of in front of the cameras, which is important. Right. Like it just matters to messaging. But I don’t I don’t know where he’s going to drive the party strategically and it’s it’s I think the question.

 

Greg Sargent: So I think one way to frame that question, you know going forward is what shapes his understanding of the politics of the moment is that the 2018 midterms or the 2022 midterms, because as you’ve written a lot of times and we’ve all sort of sat here and there in different ways, the 2018 elections, the hatred of Republicans was kind of baked into the cake, right? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. 

 

Greg Sargent: So they could campaign on kitchen table issues and whatever and roads and bridges and things like that and still won a smashing victory. Right. But in 2022, a very different lesson emerged. Think of it like this, that the right wing media and the Republican apparatus kind of flooded the zone with just pure bullshit about the red wave for months and months and months. Right. Which and it turned out to be totally illusory, but it actually had a major impact on how Democrats acted, right? 

 

Brian Beutler: Yep. Yep. They mind fucked Democrats. It works. 

 

Greg Sargent: Yeah. And so. But. But maybe not in ways that are that obvious, right? Like another way to mind fuck Democrats is that when all the savvier reporters are saying, yeah, all your talk about abortion rights and democracy is just a bunch of baloney, real voters don’t care. Look at these polls. Look at those polling averages. The red wave is on its way. Then that sort of baits Democrats into kind of acting defensively and acting like they’re headed for a loss and and to placate the kind of forces in our kind of information ecosystem that demand certain conduct from Democrats. They kind of go out there and talk about kitchen table this. And I’m focused on what really matters, not the corruption and and authoritarianism of Republicans, but on kitchen table issues. And so, you know, I’m going to be very curious to see what Hakeem Jeffries takes away from the fact that all the talk about democracy actually worked. Right. And and all the election deniers went down and the fabled middle of the road swing voter, which are supposedly won over by kitchen table issues and so forth, were actually won over by abortion rights and democracy. So. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yep. 

 

Greg Sargent: And by the way, to get to that point, it’s important to not get psyched out by Republican, you know, Republican bad faith noise. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. I really like the way you’ve laid that out is like a tale of two midterms, because I think the story of 2018 and I don’t even think it’s like a terribly wild interpretation, it’s pretty clear, is that a lot of Democrats who who ran the the party playbook don’t talk about Trump, talk about health care, even like the health care fight had been over for like a year and a half. But just talk about it. They won and you had this you know, they won in a landslide. But I think it was an is an anti-Trump lane. It was like there’s an all purpose emergency happening with Trump. And it was hands on deck everywhere in the country to elect as many Democrats as possible to stop the the emergency, but that the you know, the people who were in charge, who got credited with the victory, they were sort of like they were caught in this hurricane. But they convinced themselves that they’d been surfing the whole time. And if we just do that again, it’s going to work. It’s going to work every time, like look at how well it worked in 2018. But those were those specific circumstance. It was the only midterm with Donald Trump on the ballot or with, you know, Donald Trump in the White House. And and that is why the electorate was mobilized the way it was in in 2022. You have a new midterm with with Joe Biden in the White House. And, you know, I think that they wanted to run the same playbook. Right? They wanted to do the same thing, talk about health care type things. And they got bullied actually into doing it more than, you know, the circumstances surrounding the election like were pointing to because it was Dobbs happened and there was this threat to democracy and it’s hard to shoehorn health care and inflation or whatever else, you know, whatever other economic issues you want to use as standards for that. It was hard to make that break in. But then all this, you know, fake polling convinces them that really Americans care about crime and inflation, and so they start retooling their campaigns in that direction. But in the tail of the second midterm, what you said happened is like the candidates that did uniquely badly were the ones who were bad on the the democracy and the corruption issue. Right. Really. And and if you lay those two things side by side. I think it tells you. At the very least that like, there’s no one magic formula that. That will win you elections against an authoritarian opponent. Sometimes it’ll look like this, sometimes it’ll look like that. But you’ve got to be nimble enough to address the authoritarian threat as it’s presenting itself in the moment. I think you might be able to make even a stronger case that when push comes to shove, voters will prioritize what often gets described as abstractions like anti-corruption or pro-democracy or whatever over their narrow material interests in order to save the country. And if if if you think the truth is one or the other, somewhere in between those two things, then you don’t lose to a guy like George Santos because you don’t accidentally run an antisocial, you don’t accidentally run a pro Social Security campaign against, you know, the biggest grifters since Donald Trump. And maybe in that sort of juxtaposition between 2018 and 2022, there’s a way for the Democratic Party to become a little bit less rigid and for hopefully, Hakeem Jeffries isn’t a legend in his own mind for having masterminded the key to victory against the authoritarian right is by talking about health care all the time. But. But I guess we’ll see. Do you have any closing thoughts for us? 

 

Greg Sargent: Well, I want to ask you what you think’s going to happen with regard to with regard to the debt ceiling stuff, because I still feel like we haven’t quite figured that out. I mean, you know, I want to you mentioned earlier that you think that there’s this kind of body of of that there’s this kind of belief among this among even the reactionary lunatics that the debt ceiling stuff is a loser for them. And that’s why they’re seeking these other authorities and stuff. I feel unconvinced by that. And I just want to ask you whether, you know, there’s really a reason to be. To think that they would at any point cave in a debt ceiling fight. And here’s why I want to, here’s here’s why I worry about it. If you think about some of these guys like Lauren Boebert and Matt Gaetz right there, they just don’t care about destroying and burning down the place. And, you know, the Boehner Republicans were just kind of a different animal. The Tea Party was a different animal. It was not as fiscally oriented as it pretended to be and all the rest of it. But these guys are something else entirely. I mean, if you listen to Steve Bannon’s podcast for 5 minutes, you can hear that what’s happening is like a real insurgency underway in which bringing down the quote unquote “regime” is really kind of almost like the end goal. 

 

Brian Beutler: For sure. It’s like the difference between the Tea Party and the Bannon Party is sort of like the difference between like a race panic party and a fascist party. 

 

[news clip]: Let them call you racist. [speaking french] Let them call you xenophobes. [speaking french] Let them call you nativist. [speaking french] Wear it as a badge of honor. 

 

Brian Beutler: Like they’ve slid down that continuum. And and now the things that they want out of these conflicts are, are. Yeah. And they’re insensible. 

 

Greg Sargent: Remember the conditions before the conditions before where like repeal of the individual mandate and now, you know, like Steve Bannon’s out there saying, you know, the January 6th defendants who who tried to destroy the Capitol are political prisoners and were waging an unceasing war on their behalf. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yes. So my answer to the question is, I think how how this shakes out is really a question of who becomes the speaker, Kevin McCarthy or someone else, and what what their character is ultimately. And I don’t have any faith in Kevin McCarthy’s character. But like, I know that if Matt Gaetz were speaker, he would just whatever he would wreck the country to try to save his hide or whatever. I the the debt limit gets raised. If a bill to put the debt to raise the debt limit hits the House floor like no doubt in my mind. And it’s really basically up to the speaker whether that happens. And so I can’t game it out. I really think it was a mistake for Democrats to adjourn the last Congress without resolving it unilaterally and doing it in a you know, they’re scared about the ads that would be run in 2024 about suspending the debt limit or what they could have done it from a position of strength. They could have said like, we are not going to let you jerk us around and that’s why we’re doing this. We are taking the gun out of your hand. 

 

Greg Sargent: You know, I will tell you, this is something you’ll appreciate in kind of a, you know, a dark and unsettled way. But talking to Democrats during the run up to them, not disabling the debt limit, I really got the strong sense that they were back in this place where they were just going to win the politics of these fights. It would be you’d talk to a congressional Democratic aide and say something like, okay, so they’re going to go out there and they’re going to they’re going to actually defend burning the country’s credit rating down. It’s like, yes. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. So I think I think that the reason Matt Gaetz is looking for these things like the sort of extra constitutional legal authority to sue, to stop law, to stop criminal investigations or whatever, he however he conceives it, is he does he thinks McCarthy will put the bill on the floor to raise the debt limit. And I don’t know who’s right or wrong about that. I do think it was a mistake for Democrats not to do it. I don’t know what what the whoever the Republican speaker is will do. I think that’s a really dangerous situation because even under somebody who is less crazy like John Boehner, it almost we almost ended up in a default. But I think it’s a lot of pressure on on one person who will be isolated and it will be unmistakable that whatever happens is their fault if they don’t do the responsible thing. So I think that that gives me like a little bit of solace. There are like these sort of far fetched ideas. They’re not really that far fetched, legally or procedurally, I don’t think. But they’re they’re just dangerous ideas that they’re like high risk ideas that, like unilaterally the government can continue to issue debt even if basically the debt limit is unconstitutional and you can’t plunge the country into default by failing to increase it. And so the Treasury Department could keep issuing debt or the Mint could create $1,000,000,000,000 valued coin and turn that into into debt service. And and I mean, I think that if you have a situation where Republicans have said we’re not raising the debt limit, we’re going to default, then a responsible president would try to do something to to stop it. But we have this hyper litigious system of government where, you know, somebody loses. On the other side of that, somebody is going to make a bet against the US government. Joe Biden is going to intervene with this questionable some sort of questionable legal approach to servicing the debt. And the person who loses as a result of that is going to sue. And then it’s up to a bunch of Trump appointed judges whether what Joe Biden did was legal. So it’s like, I don’t think it works in the end. And what you so what you what you really need is is like somebody who has at least like an an iota of integrity in the speakership, just like I have. I’m willing to tolerate a lot of corruption and a lot of lying and a lot of insane hardball politics. But I’m not going to I’m not going to cause this much suffering and damage just to keep my job. And I don’t know if that defines Kevin McCarthy or not. 

 

Greg Sargent: To end on a positive note as opposed to a dreadful one [laughter] this kind of this kind of pased unnoticed. But Jake Sherman reported that the conservatives at one point were demanding that the threshold for passing a discharge petition be raised to two thirds of the House. And McCarthy apparently shot it down. And I don’t know if this is, you know, too kind of 11 dimensional chessy, but my thought was potentially maybe McCarthy knows he’s going to need that discharge petition to get this sort of stuff through in an emergency situation, which would kind of, I think, suggest that what you’re reading of McCarthy is not quite willing to that he’s, that your reading of McCarthy’s right that ultimately he would kind of let it get on the floor one way or another. 

 

Brian Beutler: Yeah. So we should explain to for listeners, discharge petition is a is a mechanism by which usually the minority party can force an the House to vote on an issue even when the speaker doesn’t want to. And you have to you have to get 218. You have to get a majority of members to to sign a petition. And it it brings a piece of legislation, legislation out of committee and onto the floor. And there’s an automatic vote. It’s like nickel version of how that works. And there’s some thinking that Hakeem Jeffries is going to have some success using this for various on various issues, including maybe the debt limit. Insofar as Republicans have a tiny majority, there’s a lot they’re badly divided and there’s some important stuff that has to get done. And I think that. McCarthy you know, you could read it one of two ways, and they’re not actually incompatible. One is that he might want McCarthy to I’m sorry he might want Hakeem Jeffries to take matters into his own hands and and get important legislation on the floor over McCarthy’s supposed objections so that you can you can you can fund the war in Ukraine. You can fund aid to Ukraine. You can you can increase the debt limit. You also he also has to know that, you know, the the tide is going to turn again and they’re going to be the minority again at some point. And the discharge petition is, you know. If you if you ruin it, you can’t get it back, right? Like for the same reason there’s apprehension about changing filibuster rules. Kevin McCarthy, having been in the minority, might realize, like, you don’t want to take this away because we’re going to be back here some day and and we don’t want to disempower our future selves. So that may that may be part of it, too. I do think that, yes, like there is some whatever his motivation for rejecting it is, it’s a sign that that. He is opposed to some of the. Like the kinds of power grabs that would leave him unable in a like a truly dark scenario to to do the right thing, maybe. Or to allow the right thing to happen, at least. And that’s, you know, that’s maybe more than I would have credit him for. So, yeah, we can. Kevin McCarthy, welcome to the resistance. All right, Greg, let’s leave it there. Thanks for spending, what, an hour and 8 minutes of your time with us. 

 

Greg Sargent: It was a great pleasure, Brian. Always fun. 

 

Brian Beutler: I think I should marry two parts of the conversation Greg and I had, that we dealt with kind of separately. One part is how Democrats are organizing and communicating to best exploit this sort of crazy show of Republican incompetence and dysfunction. The other is the part about whether Democrats have internalized the power of anti-corruption, basically anti MAGA politics generally. And like I said, I think they’ve done a pretty good job. But it occurred to me while Greg and I were talking that even discussing this, what’s happening in the House, as a demonstration of incompetence or dysfunction is missing something important, and that is that the MAGA rump of the house is waging an extremely bruising battle to keep the GOP streak of fascism and authoritarianism alive and in control of the party. They want to live to fight not just more debt limit fights, but more January six, and to really just institutionalize the idea that the rules don’t apply to them. And because that’s what they’re up to, the goal has to be to make sure those guys lose. Positively Dreadful is a Crooked Media production. Our executive producer is Michael Martinez, our producer, is Olivia Martinez and our associate producer is Emma-Illick Frank. Evan Sutton mixes and edits the show each week. Our theme music is by Vasilis Fotopoulos.