Kevin McCarthy has had a tumultuous time since taking over as speaker of the House — but MSNBC host Alex Wagner argues that many of his problems are a result of a “nasty model” created by former Republican speaker Newt Gingrich.
When Republicans reclaimed the House in 1985 and elected Gingrich as speaker, Wagner said he ushered in a new style of House politics that “prioritized conflict with the White House and with Democrats.” She noted that Gingrich was able to extract “big concessions” from Democrats, including spending cuts, work requirements and cuts to the social safety net. That “nasty arrow one” came in the form of the impeachment of then-president Bill Clinton.
Despite Republican’s losing public support and seats in the House over the impeachment, Wagner argued that the “nasty model” from Gingrich continued on after his term was over, becoming “more extreme” under John Boehner.
“It was under Speaker Boehner that the Tea Party and its extremists first decided to put the gun to the head of the American economy,” Wagner said. “That standoff ultimately resulted in downgrading the U.S. credit for the very first time in history, which Republicans seem to view as a success because they did not change their tactics after that.”
Eventually, the party got “even more extreme,” Wagner said, forcing Boehner to resign in 2015. His term was followed by the short-lived speakership of Paul Ryan, who resigned from the position in 2019.
“Do you see a pattern here?” she said. Things get nastier and the speakership gets sort of resignier.”
Now, McCarthy is “trying to survive his historically weak speakership by appeasing an increasingly rebellious conference” and “holding the American economy hostage once again to try and extract concessions from another Democratic president,” Wagner said.
“At the same time, his numbers are suggesting that no concession may ever be enough,” she added. “After all, this is not Gingrich’s nasty arrow one, this is McCarthy’s nasty era two.”
Recent examples that Wagner cited of the Republican party’s nastiness include a bill being introduced to expel Democratic congressman Adam Schiff after McCarthy suggested that he shouldn’t be serving in the House anymore and Marjorie Taylor Greene moving to introduce articles of impeachment against President Biden, FBI director Christopher Wray, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.
“Remember when Republicans would just impeach the president of the United States and leave it there? Now they have to impeach nearly the whole cabinet, too, which makes this particularly odious for speaker McCarthy, particularly bonkers for his conference, because Marjorie Taylor Greene is not some fringe lunatic — not anymore, anyway,” Wagner said. “The Congresswoman who aligned herself with Jan. 6 insurrectionists, she is now also considered an ally of the speaker of the House. The two of them have cemented the path between what is left of the Republican House establishment and the party’s radical right-wing.
“So this is the party, this is the GOP, this is who they are now,” Wagner concluded. “Newt Gingrich would be proud.”
Watch the full segment in the video above.