This week, the Republican House majority celebrated 100 days in the majority, but for all intents and purposes, it is a celebration of extremism, white nationalism, political theater, and total legislative failure. The House Republican majority was quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done for all the “oversight” they provided in their first one hundred days of the 118th Congress. Sadly, it appears they have mixed up the concept of “oversight” with dangerous political theater.
America’s Voice watched all 12 immigration-related hearings the Republican majority held over the ten weeks they were in session – most were ostensibly about the border, which the GOP falsely believes is the single biggest threat to American security and the only part of the immigration issue worth discussing.
- In seven of those hearings, including the one on April 19 in the House Homeland Security Committee with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Republicans used the opportunity to amplify the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory.
- In all 12, Republicans peddled misinformation about a so-called “open border” and fentanyl.
Absent from the Republican members in the dozens of hours of congressional hearings were substantive solutions for an orderly process at the border or improvements to legal pathways. And there certainly wasn’t any airtime focused on what the FBI and Homeland Security deem the greatest domestic terrorism threats – white national extremism.
We have the receipts.
House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) excellently summarized the majority’s efforts over the last hundred days in his opening remarks at Wednesday’s hearing:
“Unfortunately, Republicans seem intent on making a hard job even harder, maybe because they think that berating the Secretary will get them their five minutes on Fox News. They spend time tweeting about their ‘accomplishments’ during the first 100 days of the 118th Congress, touting the number of television appearances they have made. Meanwhile, they have not moved a single bill through this committee. Not one.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had promised to put Republicans’ extreme anti-immigrant legislation on the floor in the first week of this Congress back in January as part of his ramshackle path to the gavel, but was forced to pull back this promise after it was clear he did not have the votes to pass the asylum ban legislation proposed by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX). Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX) led the Republican opposition calling the bill “anti-America” and “not Christian.” Then this week, to give the appearance of forward movement on an issue Republicans have spent a massive amount of time demagoguing, the House Judiciary Committee moved to consolidate the eight proposals floating around their caucus into one repackaged Republican-only bill for markup, which was held on April 19.
The “new” proposal, introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) was largely the same extreme piece of legislation doubling down on the failed cruelty and chaos approach, offering policies that are unhelpful and unworkable. The bill pushes for child and family detention, would all but explicitly ban asylum, and looks to have additional harsh penalties on immigrants. And Republicans still cannot move this extreme messaging bill, which would be DOA in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), told the New York Times, that it’s necessary to have “a legal pathway for people to come in and be able to work,” alongside a call to authorize new immigrant visas for the agricultural sector. Ahead of the markup, Rep. Gonzales warned that the legislation was not ready for “prime time.” As Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted about the Republican bill: “It turns out that basing real-world policy on the lurid fantasy universe depicted in MAGA-pleasing ads produces results so absurd and extreme that Republicans beholden to less MAGA-fied voters can’t stomach it.”
The lack of progress – even if only symbolic – is telling. As an America’s Voice report outlines, Republicans made a massive investment in a nativist narrative that failed to deliver in the ‘22 midterms, and now their underperformance combined with their commitment to extremism on the immigration and border issues continues to bedevil the party.
Dancing around the void of a real legislative agenda, the GOP House majority spent the first hundred days using congressional hearings as their stage for their nativist political theater. This week’s House Homeland Security Committee hearing with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was no exception. It was billed as a “Review of the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the Department of Homeland Security,” but for Republicans, it was a show interrogation of the Secretary in the hopes of furthering their sham impeachment push.
Chairman Mark Green (R-TN), opened the hearing by outlining their weak rhetorical impeachment trap around “operational control.” They cite the unattainable standard outlined in the 2006 Secure Fence Act of preventing 100% of all illicit drugs and unauthorized crossings passing through the border — a standard that the Berlin wall would have failed to meet.
Ranking member Thompson also cited two former Republican Chairmen, Peter King, and Rep. Michael McCaul, who acknowledged the unattainable standard of 100 percent number when the bill was drafted. Later in the hearing, Rep. Dan Goldman (R-NY), who played a central role in impeaching former President Donald Trump, noted the baseless, partisan sham of calling for the Secretary’s impeachment. “I have a little experience with impeachment, and I can tell you, as well as everybody else, that there is no grounds for impeachment based on a policy dispute,” Rep. Goldman said. “And there is absolutely nothing that I’ve seen here today that amounts to a false statement under oath.”
But for Chairman Green, and the other Republicans on the committee, the facts and respect are beside the point. For them, it’s a fundraising opportunity. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that Rep. Green bragged to donors at a campaign fundraiser about Wednesday’s hearing being a “popcorn” worthy experience as part of a “five-phase” plan to impeach the Secretary. All this despite impeachment being outside his committee’s jurisdiction. Notably, the Congressional Integrity Project filed an ethics complaint against Green for what might be a campaign violation.
Similar to the Republican-only child dentition and asylum ban bill, Republicans’ nativist political theater around an impeachment of Secretary Mayorkas has little to do with substance, as it would go nowhere in the Senate even if they had the votes to get it past the House, which they do not.
Republican members also continued their pernicious lies about a so-called “open border” and fentanyl as in their other 12 hearings. Their misinformation is a gift to the cartels, who use officials in Washington talking about open borders to confuse desperate people hoping to seek safety in the U.S. This gets us farther away from seriously addressing border issues and helps prolong the fentanyl crisis.
Worse, in the very committee tasked with ensuring DHS is properly protecting the nation from terrorist threats, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-LA) invoked the white nationalist great replacement conspiracy theory claiming migrants constitute a literal “invasion” – the racist and anti-Semitic lie that is directly tied to multiple domestic terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, most of the Republican members on the Committee have amplified this deadly racist conspiracy theory. Rep. Higgins is just the latest example of Republican Members using these congressional hearings to echo this white nationalist fiction.
“One of the greatest threats to our nation’s homeland security is the rise of far-right and racially-motivated violent extremism over the past decade,” said Rep. Dan Magaziner, rebutting Rep. Higgins. “More than 145 Americans were killed in domestic extremist attacks,” Rep. Magaziner continued as he focused on real threats to the homeland. After powerfully speaking of the victims and threat of white nationalist deadly violence, Rep. Magaziner added:
“Many of these attacks have been inspired by the racist great replacement theory … this false conspiracy theory has seeped into the media with some members of Congress and FOX news personalities repeating it and inspiring domestic terrorists.”
The Senate Homeland Security Committee also questioned Secretary Mayorkas this week, where Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) also warned of the real terrorist threat facing the nation. “Domestic terrorism driven by white supremacists and anti-government extremists continues to be the most significant terrorism threat to the United States,” he said.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), however, sounded like his House colleagues and used the hearing to peddle an implicit reference to the great replacement conspiracy theory comparing a misleading statistic about migrant encounters to the populations of certain U.S. states. Nor was this the first time he amplified these white nationalist conspiracies.
In spite of the stunning lack of substance – or success – of the first hundred days, the House majority is set to continue their dangerous performance for many weeks to come. They have no plan to actually do the difficult work of governing for the American people. They see Congress as a stage to perform on, so no one should hold their breath that most of the Republican conference will change course. They will fill their taxpayer-funded days in Congress with seemingly endless performances of the same nativist political theater over and over again for a radicalized base and right-wing media. Unfortunately, each week this production continues to run comes at the direct expense of the American people and increases a threat to public safety.