A prominent New York Republican congressman Tuesday trashed fellow GOP lawmakers as clowns and “lunatics” as a new round of bitter infighting killed the latest effort to avert a government shutdown.
Rep. Mike Lawler angrily lashed out at far right-wing colleagues in the fractious GOP caucus after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was forced to pull the plug on a stopgap funding measure.
“This is stupidity. It’s a clown show,” said Lawler, who faces a tricky reelection fight in his Westchester County-based district next year. “You keep running lunatics. You’re going to be in this position.”
McCarthy is now left with no current viable plan to fund the government past a deadline of Sept. 30.
In that time, he needs to cajole almost all of his fellow Republicans to line up behind a proposal that will need to include steep cuts and other right-wing goodies to appease conservative members of the Freedom Caucus.
Then he will have to negotiate a whole new deal with Democrats in the House and the Senate, which won’t go along with almost all of the most contentious provisions.
Lawler, one of a small group of congressional Republicans who represent Democratic-leaning districts, blames the chaos on right-wing extremists who are more interested in signaling ideological purity to their supporters than in actually governing.
“They don’t care what happens as long as they somehow, you know, look good in the process,” Lawler said.
But Democratic ex-Rep. Mondaire Jones, who is running to unseat Lawler next year, said the self-styled moderate bears plenty of blame for empowering right-wing firebrands like Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fl., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
“Mike Lawler doesn’t get to wring his hands about a government shutdown when he and his party would put us precisely where we are today,” Jones said. “When he voted for Kevin McCarthy, he knew he’d be in the pocket of this chaos caucus.”
Political pundits say the Byzantine drama could have a major impact if McCarthy cannot avert a shutdown, which history says would likely be blamed on Republicans.
Lawler is one of six Republicans who narrowly won seats in the New York City suburbs in a red ripple in last year’s midterms.
All are facing competitive re-election campaigns and Democrats believe flipping their seats could be key to retaking control of the House in 2024.
The so-called “Biden district Republicans” like Lawler need support from the GOP establishment. But none can afford to be seen as fig leaves for Republican dysfunction especially when most of them ran as can-do bipartisan figures, according to political observers.
“They’re caught between a rock and a hard place,” said political analyst Doug Muzzio. “The extremists don’t care but the guys who won in New York and New Jersey, they have to care. They’re going to be made to be wolves in sheep clothing.”
Not everyone thinks even a full government shutdown would be much of a big deal next year.
“It looks bad now and it could get worse in the next couple of weeks,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist. “But is that going to be a voting issue in 2024? I don’t know.”