Georgia freshman Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene isn’t on any congressional committees. She was stripped of serving on them last month after a series of anti-Semitic and Islamaphobic comments she made prior to her time in Congress came out.
So, Greene, a favorite of the Trump wing of the party, needed another way to create controversy and draw headlines. And she found it!
On Wednesday, Greene filed a motion to adjourn the House – a procedural move that forces every member to come to the floor to cast a vote to keep Congress in session. She’s done the same thing repeatedly over the last few weeks.
Why? Pointless delay. And grandstanding. (Of her most recent motion to adjourn, Greene tweeted this: “Some GOP members complained to me that I messed up their schedule. I’m not sorry for interrupting fundraising calls & breakfast. GOP voters are tired weak Rs.”)
While an increasing number of her Republican colleagues are growing frustrated of Greene’s obstruction for obstruction’s sake, she is far from alone among congressional Republicans who seem to have settled on simply gumming up the works as their preferred strategy in the early days of the Biden administration.
Take Ron Johnson. The Wisconsin Republican senator signaled Wednesday that he plans to force a full reading of the massive $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus bill currently under consideration by the Senate, a procedural maneuver design to stall the eventual vote on the measure but without any goal beyond that. “I think that would be a good idea,” Johnson told CNN when asked about forcing a full reading of the hundreds of pages of the legislation. “We’re talking about $1.9 trillion … a stack of one billion dollars that would extend halfway past the distance to the moon. And we want to do this in a matter of hours? I don’t think that’s right.”
Or Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, who is slowing down the confirmation of Merrick Garland as the next attorney general because he didn’t like Garland’s answer on immigration policy. “Democrats are trying to expedite Judge Garland’s confirmation vote,” tweeted Cotton on Wednesday. “I’m blocking them because Judge Garland has refused to answer basic questions, including whether illegally entering the country should remain a crime.”
None of these maneuvers will actually do anything. The Covid-19 bill will eventually get a vote and, if Democrats stay united, pass. The House isn’t going to randomly adjourn because of Greene’s antics. And Merrick Garland is very, very likely to be the next attorney general – whether he gets a confirmation vote this week or next week. (Cotton can only slow the proceedings so much.)
This is obstruction solely to obstruct. And while obstruction has a long history in Congress (the filibuster, hello), Republicans now are playing a different game than obstructers of the past.
What they are engaging in is performative obstruction. People like Greene and Johnson and Cotton are purposely charging at windmills not in hopes of toppling them, but rather in hopes of ensuring that the party base (and its media enablers) see them charging at the windmill.
What Greene is hoping to accomplish has nothing to do with adjourning the House. She wants Fox News (and Newsmax and Breitbart, etc.) to cover her forcing all of these members to come to the House floor and cast meaningless votes. She wants to send fundraising solicitations to her national donor base touting how she forced the vote. The more members grumble about it – especially Republican ones – the better for Greene. Yet more evidence she is sticking it to the corrupt political establishment! Or something.
Ditto Cotton. What he’s trying to do is emerge sometime in the next four years as the logical heir to Donald Trump within the GOP – a spot currently filled by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. And what better way to do that than to troll the libs! Sure, Cotton is doing so with no real end goal – legislatively speaking – but that matters only if you believe accomplishing something (beyond raising his profile and some money) is important.
Trump may no longer be in office, but his performative politics linger – and continue to inform how Republicans appear to be defining success in the Biden era.