With less than a week until the midterms, Washington’s starched collar Republicans are preparing for the likelihood that their next House majority will be another chaotic affair. The ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus is now outflanked by an even more anti-establishment wing of the party, personified by the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar. And this anti-Squad will almost certainly expand next week with the potential addition of new, even Trumpier candidates: Joe Kent, who has campaigned on a “Stop the Steal” platform; J.R. Majewski, who attended the January 6th rally; Cory Mills, a riot control weapons salesman who joked about tear-gassing the media; Anna Paulina Luna, who previously appeared on a QAnon program; and on and on. Quite a crew for the presumptive next Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, to keep in line.
The last red wave election, after all, induced years of headaches for the then-Speaker Paul Ryan. Between Donald Trump in the White House and the Freedom Caucus exerting its power over Congress, Ryan’s tenure was marred by constant infighting and the failure of his signature policy goal: repealing Obamacare. And while the exact composition of the 118th Congress won’t be clear until the dust settles next week, it’s widely expected that the next G.O.P. majority will be even more firmly controlled by the party’s far right. “I’d say we have a good floor of about 40 hardcore MAGA members,” predicted Alex Bruesewitz, a political consultant who made his name working for Greene’s 2020 campaign.
But McCarthy appears determined not to repeat Ryan’s mistakes. On the contrary, the current minority leader spent the summer building bridges with the MAGA caucus, going out of his way to stump for Majewski, Kent and John Gibbs on the trail. He has repeatedly promised to reinstate Taylor Greene’s committee assignments, which were stripped in early 2021 after her past comments endorsing various conspiracy theories came to light. He’s elevated members fluent in MAGA-speak, including Elise Stefanik and Jim Banks, into leadership roles—and, in a nod to the MAGA bloodlust, helped run Liz Cheney out of town. And he’s gone out of his way to befriend Jim Jordan, a key member of the Freedom Caucus, removing an obstacle that bedeviled his predecessors. “Jordan is one of the most liked members of the caucus. He just is,” a House Republican aide told me.