Pelosi’s deputy chief staff, Drew Hammill, followed up by clarifying that although her office couldn’t verify NBC’s recording of the remark (which she didn’t say directly to the camera), “saying a mask requirement is ‘not a decision based on science’ is moronic.”
In other words, we don’t want to admit that word came out of the speaker’s mouth, but yes, her office can verify that McCarthy’s scientific utterances are moronic.
Pelosi also made the gutsy call to simply block McCarthy’s pernicious appointments to the Jan. 6 select committee rather than let people like Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio hijack the panel’s every proceeding. During Tuesday’s hearing, Pelosi’s decision benefitted the officers who volunteered their time and testimony, lawmakers conducting the probe, and the American public, 72% of whom say there’s still more to learn about the Capitol siege.
It’s hard to know whether Pelosi’s posture toward Republicans is driven more by political calculation or the simple reality that the Republican Party is no longer a functional partner in democracy. Frankly, the GOP hasn’t been functional for some time, but Democrats now have an ever-dwindling finite window in which to deliver results to voters. As Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington told MSNBC Wednesday evening, the urgency is real.
“We’ve all kind of had it,” Jayapal said of Republicans, after her GOP counterparts had frittered away the day railing against House mask mandates and trying to shut down the chamber. Democrats, she said, were trying to address the “multiple crises” facing the nation.
“Americans need childcare, they need health care. The eviction moratorium is going to expire on Saturday and there are going to be millions of people that are homeless,” Jayapal said. “Meanwhile, our Republican colleagues are passing motions to adjourn just for the heck of it and delaying everything that we are doing and refusing to vote for the things that really will change Americans’ lives.”
McCarthy and his Republicans remain dedicated to a race to the bottom in a desperate bid to energize Trump’s rank and file for the midterms. Staging a hyperbolic mask mandate protest on the House floor is just par for the course.
In response, Pelosi and her Democrats seem to have concluded it’s good politics to unabashedly marginalize Republicans as a party so absurd and thoroughly crippled by Trump that it has rendered itself irrelevant. It’s a posture that will likely build on itself over time—the more marginalized Republicans feel, the more unhinged they will become.
McCarthy made the political calculation in January that hitching the House GOP’s star to Trump was the surest path back to the majority, and the caucus has subsequently dedicated itself to that course of action. But Trump isn’t exactly racking up the wins in House special elections thus far. In fact, in blue and red districts alike, Trump has hobbled both GOP candidates who have embraced him and those who have tried to distance themselves.
In a ruby-red Texas district this week, Republican Jake Ellzey defeated Trump-endorsed candidate Susan Wright, 53%-47%—proving that Trump’s grip on the party’s base isn’t the silver bullet McCarthy had assumed.
Meanwhile, Trump’s toxicity is still animating voters on the left, leading to a lopsided blowout for Democrat Melanie Stansbury in a special election last month in which her GOP rival, state Sen. Mark Moores, recognized President Joe Biden as 2020’s rightful winner but refused to hold Trump accountable for Jan. 6.
For Democrats, that means dismissing a radicalized GOP as a party too Trumpy to govern is likely a good political bet.