GOP Extremists are Burning Down the House 

Interview with Wajahat Ali, a Daily Beast columnist and author, conducted by Scott Harris

After the Republican party’s narrow November election victory, giving them control over the U.S. House of Representatives, it took four days of negotiations and 15 rounds of ballots in early January for embattled Rep. Kevin McCarthy to win his long-sought role as speaker of the house.

One of McCarthy’s most striking concessions made to the extremist wing of his party was to agree to a rule change that will allow just one member of Congress to force a floor vote to remove him as speaker, making him highly vulnerable to being forced to surrender to fringe demands of the GOP’s so-called “Freedom Caucus.”  Under pressure, McCarthy appointed 11 representatives who, like himself, voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election to serve as chairs of 11 of 17 House committees.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Wajahat Ali, a Daily Beast columnist and author, who discusses his recent article, “Kevin McCarthy Learned What Happens When You Dance With Arsonists,” about what we can expect from the GOP House, whose agenda will be dominated by far-right members in top positions of power that will likely provoke crisis after crisis and may very well burn down the House.

WAJAHAT ALI: Yeah, I think sometimes you have to take people at their word and you have to look at them literally and seriously. And if you look at the 21 Republicans who hijacked not only 118th Congress, but also the Republican party, Scott, let’s not forget that was a humiliating 15 rounds for Kevin McCarthy, where he needed to corral every single vote — right? — to win with a bare 4-vote majority that he has that includes, by the way, being friendly to George Santos, if indeed that is his name — the untalented, Mr. Ripley, who, in addition to his numerous lies, lies, lies about being Jewish and lies about his mom dying in 9/11 and now is under federal and local investigation for potential criminal fraud, right? So this just goes to show you the makeup of the modern Republican party that Kevin McCarthy, as of last week when he was asked to denounce George Santos, he said, “Well, everyone’s innocent until proven guilty.”

And then even after he had to survive this absolutely humiliating 15 rounds of self-masochism, right? The Faustian bargain that he’s made — who does he turn around and thank? He thanks Donald Trump and Matt Gaetz. You know, it’s like inviting an arsonist into your home and then being surprised when they burn down the house.

And that’s the analogy I gave in the article, because this is the extremist, radicalized, weaponized force of the GOP that they have deliberately nurtured, watered, fed and courted for several years because it helps them get votes.

Well, another analogy. Why are they surprised when the monster that they have created has now escaped the lab and turned on its masters? And so Kevin McCarthy and even now Mitch McConnell, as he’s making the deals this week as we know, they realize that they have empowered these extremists who are completely beholden to their extremist agenda. Right? And if you do a quick analysis of these 21 Republicans, they’re anti-government, anti-income tax, anti-IRS, anti-literally everything.

These are people who openly are perfectly fine bringing down the government, getting a six-figure salary from us, the taxpayers. They’re the people who, if you remember this old quote — and I’m going to show you I’m an old head here — Grover Norquist, anti-tax, crusader, conservative, at one time said, “I’m not against the government. I just want to reduce it so I can drown it in the bathtub.” Right.

Well, these guys are willing to blow up the bathtub and use their AR-15s to kill anyone else who’s alive in the house. And this is what the Republican party is dealing with, it’s going to be an obstructionist Republican party. It’s going to be a useless House because they won’t be able to move. And what we’re going to see is a damage to the United States, especially this week, Scott, with the debt ceiling crisis coming up.

And we know that they’re going to hijack the American economy and the government to reduce spending. That’s what’s happening.

SCOTT HARRIS: Because Democrats control the Senate and the White House, it’s not likely that Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans in the House will be able to pass much legislation that goes anywhere. But they do have at least one consequential leverage point, with House approval being necessary to increase the federal debt ceiling. If there’s any doubt that the debt limit won’t be increased, financial markets and consumer confidence will be shaken.

And as we saw in a similar situation in 2011, it led to the first-ever downgrade of the U.S. sovereign debt rating by Standard and Poor’s. Kevin McCarthy and others in the Republican party have stated their intention to hold the debt ceiling hostage in order to blackmail Democrats and President Biden into agreeing to making deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.

You know, and I guess the question is “What, if anything, can Democrats do to avert a further shredding of the nation’s social safety net and/or an economic meltdown?”

WAJAHAT ALI: So it’s one of those situations where I hate saying this, but absolutely, Kevin McCarthy is beholden to the extreme right-wing of the party, these 21 Republicans who want to drown the government, who want to abolish the IRS, want to abolish government institutions, who want to abolish income tax. Right? And he will say, “Okay, well, we’ll raise the debt ceiling, but you have to gut, you know, all these benefits that actually help people. But by the way, we’re perfectly fine with our rich base being deregulated and getting tax cuts.”

If I were the Democrats, I would play hardball when it comes to the American public and say, “Look, we’re trying to help you with Social Security. We just reduced the cost of health care and prescription bills for seniors, right? Thanks to this historic bill. And look at these extremists. Look at extremists, MAGA who are willing to harm America and go after your Social Security.”

I said in the summer and thankfully someone in the Biden administration probably listened to me, I’ll take credit for it. I said, “You have to remind people that there are openly now people like Lindsey Graham openly bragging about going after Social Security.”

Well, they messaged on it. And guess what, Scott? A lot of voters are like, “Nope, we’re going to punish you Republicans for that.”

So it’s a messaging strategy where you need the Biden administration, every Democrat, to come out and warn America about what’s happening. Lay the blame completely at the feet of Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans. And what we’ve seen in the past is, Yes, it harms America, but it also harms Republicans because people at the end of the day want solutions, right?

And this is going to harm them leading up to 2024. The problem is it is also going to harm the United States. That’s the problem of having arsonists in the House. Can we simply survive it? Can we survive for the next two years? And thankfully, thankfully, because we have the White House and the Senate, we barely can, but we’re going to take a few dings with it.

But the hope here is 2024 comes around. People remember and Republicans pay a deep price for it. But at the end of the day, the annihilationists and the arsonists don’t care about who they harm and they don’t care about the United States because if they did, this would never have happened. But it’s going to happen. Just wait for it.

They’re going to hold us hostage.

Wajahat Ali is also author of the book, “Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American.” Visit his Daily Beast webpage at, his website at and follow him on Twitter at @WajahatAli.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Wajahat Ali (25:58) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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