Republicans opened their new House majority by removing metal detectors installed after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
While much of the spotlight on Tuesday is on the House speaker’s gavel, the first convening of the 118th Congress also marks the persistence of an extremist politics that existentially threatened members of Congress just two years ago.
The metal detectors’ removal is just an emblem of this Republican-led Congress’s ambitions, which include things like seeking more information about perennial boogeyman Hunter Biden’s laptop. House Republicans have focused much of their January 6-related attention not on the attacks themselves but instead on how attackers were treated after being arrested.
More broadly, scores of Republicans either dismiss or even promote the extremism that led to January 6. Some have called investigations into the attacks “witch hunts.” One of the newly elected members, Wisconsin Representative Derrick Van Orden, even used campaign money to fund his own trip to the January 6 riots, where he proudly joined the attackers.
And yet Van Orden joins other far-right Republicans like Marjorie Taylor Greene in supporting Kevin McCarthy for House speaker; while Greene has spent substantial airtime defending the Republican leader, Van Orden joined 53 other “Only Kevin” Republicans expressing sole support for McCarthy as speaker.
In his attempts to curry favor with detractors, McCarthy has proposed numerous rule changes, including one that would gut the Office of Congressional Ethics. While his efforts haven’t yet convinced his opposition, it just goes to show that the folly of conservative governance will plague this Congress no matter who gets the gavel.
Agenda items already parroted most by Republican members are mostly steeped in conspiracy and cynicism. And their first major action, even without a House speaker, was to make it easier to bring weapons into the Capitol. So while there may be an entertaining element to the “Republicans in Disarray” narrative, one thing is unfortunately certain: The corrupt, dangerous far right will maintain stride in this Congress.