Opinion: Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s New Deal: She’s in charge

Republican has vaulted from back-bench pariah to lynch-pin power player in Washington

If you want to know if the government will shut down on September 30, don’t bother asking House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. He has no idea. McCarthy’s guess is as good as yours or mine because he can’t control his caucus.

Instead, you should ask U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Republican who has risen from backbencher to lynchpin power player in Washington thanks to McCarthy’s patronage.

McCarthy appointed Greene to powerful committees earlier this year in exchange for her vote for speaker. McCarthy, with only a four-vote margin on any given day, gave Greene and the other far-right members enormous leverage over him through new House rules. They can call a vote of no confidence at any time to remove him from his position as speaker. Even when he’s negotiating spending bills with Democrats, as he must, or making small steps forward on major issues, he’s never more than a few votes away from irrelevance and disgrace.

It’s not going well in a divided Congress.

In the mid-1990s, when another Georgian was in charge, Republicans hit a stumbling block on their path to total dysfunction. With Bill Clinton in the White House, House Speaker Newt Gingrich instituted an informal practice of not bringing legislation to the floor unless it received the “majority of the majority.”

Dennis Hastert, the next House Speaker, dubbed this approach “the Hastert Rule.” From then on, a majority of House votes was no longer enough to consider a bill; a majority of the GOP majority was required. There were exceptions to the Hastert Rule when the speaker required Democrats to pass unpalatable legislation, such as raising the debt ceiling. But, for the most part, Hastert knew he could keep the Speaker’s gavel by keeping a majority of his majority happy.

Fast forward to today’s shambles, and you have McCarthy’s version of the Hastert Rule, in which McCarthy realizes that his power as speaker isn’t really power at all, but rather power sharing. And he is seeing that by giving up so much of his leverage in order to be elected Speaker of the House, he is being led by the far right members of his caucus rather than the other way around.

This arrangement cannot be called the “McCarthy Rule,” because the Republican from California is clearly not in charge. Instead, Greene now wields veto power over McCarthy’s agenda. The Greene New Deal is now in effect in the House.

Incredibly, whether the government will shut down this weekend, whether Ukraine will receive additional American military aid in the future, and whether McCarthy himself will remain as speaker may all be decided by the congressmember from Rome.

Greene can’t be blamed for going for broke. All of this has served her purposes and strengthened her position. But you can’t blame McCarthy for giving up the House Speaker’s power and independence in order to get the gavel.

Greene has also managed to remain in lockstep with former President Donald Trump, even as he actively undermines the speaker, with no negative consequences for her own standing. Greene was one of the only members of Congress traveling with Trump for a weekend campaign rally as McCarthy huddled in Washington Saturday to cobble together enough support to move spending bills forward. On Sunday, after McCarthy outlined a shaky plan to keep the government open, Trump advised House Republicans on Twitter, “IF YOU DON’T GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN.”

Take a look at what Greene is saying if you want to know what’s coming up next in Congress. Over the weekend, she recorded a video from her home gym in which she warned her fellow Republicans about her position on future spending.

“For those of you in Washington who think we have to vote on these big bills because, ‘Oh, the September 30th deadline is coming!'” I will tell you right now. “I couldn’t care less,” she said. To put it another way, brace yourself for a government shutdown.

They say that a leader must be either loved or feared. McCarthy, for far too many of his supporters, is neither. Did he expect them to be loyal to him when he most needed their votes? Consider again. That is not how the Greene New Deal works.

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