It’s not entirely a coincidence that within a week of each other, the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus expelled one of its members, and Republicans in the U.S. House began discussing whether to do the same to one of its wayward flock.
State Sen. Colton Moore was expelled by his fellow GOP legislators for being too aggressive in his push to have a special session to go after Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. To be precise, he called his fellow senators RINOs — Republicans in Name Only — which, in these days of hardening partisanship, is the nastiest thing one Republican can say about another. Moore won’t lose his Senate seat, but he won’t be able to caucus with other Republicans.
In Washington a few days later, Kevin McCarthy was voted out as House speaker. Irate Republicans blamed U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz as the ringleader of the eight Republicans who caused McCarthy’s downfall.
Gaetz “is an anti-Republican who has become actively destructive to the conservative movement,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote in a Washington Post column in support of giving Gaetz the boot.
It’s a little off-base to characterize either of these stories as a conflict between moderates and conservatives. No one looked quite as steamed over the way the McCarthy ouster went down as the far-right U.S. Rep. Chip Roy of Texas. Neither is the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus a bunch of snowflakes.
Roy made a little narrower distinction in an interview after the vote.
“Some of our brothers and sisters — particularly in the, you know, MAGA camp, I think — particularly enjoy the circular firing squad,” Roy said.
Both Moore and Gaetz have made a lot of their MAGA credentials. But again, a lot of the Republicans currently furious with them have, as well. What really ties these two stories together is — as is so often the case in politics — money.
Moore combined his insistence on a special session with an online fundraising appeal that went to Trump supporters across the country. He has reportedly let it be known that if U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene leaves her seat to run for governor, the money raised from his special session crusade could find another use.
Gaetz, who has denied rumors that he’s angling to run for governor, was defiant when another Republican chided him for sending out fundraising emails while the debate over McCarthy’s future was ongoing. And he immediately sent out another fundraising appeal.
“It’s Matt Gaetz, and I need your immediate attention,” his email said. “I was just ATTACKED and BOOED by RINOs for asking you to weigh in and contribute to this fight.”
Gaetz’s appeal was too much even for the current governor of Florida, who has sent a few emails himself.
“I think when you’re doing things, you need to be doing it because it’s the right thing to do. It shouldn’t be done with an eye towards trying to generate lists or trying to generate fundraising,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in an interview with Fox.
What caused Republicans in Georgia to expel Moore and to talk about such a thing in Congress, where their majority hangs by a thread, has little to do with who’s to the right of who. Rather, it comes from a deep uneasiness with having in their midst people who would raise money by calling them names.
In its statement announcing Moore’s expulsion, the Georgia caucus went so far as to say that through his actions, the freshman senator put “his caucus colleagues and their families at risk of personal harm.” The audience for mass fundraising appeals isn’t screened to weed out those too angry just to send a donation.
One member of Congress commented that if the Republican House conference had tried to meet immediately after McCarthy went down, there might have been fisticuffs. The conference will attempt to reach some kind of consensus by Wednesday of this week.
With the crucial business of choosing a new speaker still unsettled, it’s unlikely that the talk about expelling Gaetz will go anywhere. Gaetz would take it as another fundraising opportunity anyway. But oh, to be a fly on the wall when the conference gathers behind closed doors to hash things out.