Twelve years ago, a Democratic-controlled Congress was on the verge of passing landmark legislation to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system—the biggest domestic priority of then-President Barack Obama and a decades-long goal of his Party. Republicans were anything but the end of the world. Outside the Capitol, conservative protesters were chanting, “Kill the bill!” and holding signs that said, “Doctors, Not Dictators.” Inside the Capitol, John Boehner, the House minority leader at the time, gave a famously impassioned speech from the House floor. “Look at how this bill was written,” he said. “Can you say it was done openly? Without transparency or accountability Without the use of backroom transactions that were done behind closed doors Hell no you can’t!”
Just minutes later, the Affordable Healthcare Act was approved by a narrow margin (219 to 212), which is an all-party vote. Republicans planned to make the law a rallying cry for their base during the next midterm elections. They achieved their goal. They won seven Senate seats and 63 House seats, becoming the dominant party in the lower chamber. It was, as Obama put it at the time, a “shellacking.”
But on Friday, with another Democratic-controlled Congress on the precipice of passing another piece of landmark legislation—a sweeping climate, healthcare, and tax bill that punctuates a line of recent victories for President Joe Biden—Republicans on Capitol Hill barely put up a fight.
No major protests were held. There were no noteworthy remarks by Republicans in the House as they tried to kill the bill last minute, hoping for their Jimmy Stewart moment. The House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy spent almost an hour praising the measure just before the vote. However, that speech paled in comparison with the eight-hour long protest speech he made last November about an earlier version.
The House passed the Inflation Reduction Act. It was approved by the Senate over the weekend. By 6 p.m. the House approved the measure by a vote of 220 to 207, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk.
While Republicans tried to oppose the legislation Friday, it seemed like they didn’t care as much because of their reaction to the FBI’s search warrant for the Mar-a-Lago house of Donald Trump.
Since the news on Monday, Trump and his allies have painted the effort as part of a politically motivated “witch-hunt.” But on Thursday, The Washington PostThe agents are looking for classified documents regarding nuclear weapons Trump obtained from the White House. A federal magistrate in Florida released the property receipt and warrant from Friday’s search. It showed that almost half the documents seized by the FBI were classified or top secret. Trump was also identified in the warrant as being under investigation for possible violations of federal statutes and the Espionage Act.
Many congressional Republicans tried to brush off the latest revelations on Friday, with some arguing that members of Trump’s inner circle leaking to the media were the real concern. “We’ve got problems with people betraying their confidential information to get it to The Washington Post,” Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, tells TIME. “And that’s a problem.”
Others were more cautious. Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma says more information is needed about how the FBI carried out such an intrusive search. “It’s a high threshold to say it was an immediate national security threat,” he tells TIME. “If it wasn’t an immediate national security threat, I think there’s a lot of questions they need to answer.”
Mullin, a member of the House Intelligence Committee who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat, emphasized what has become a near ubiquitous GOP talking point—that the investigation into Trump is designed to hurt him politically.
“What are the steps that led up to that decision to say that it had to be done this way?” he said. “Because—no pun intended here—that’s going nuclear. And with the way they’ve treated President Trump and those associated with him, with the FBI, I think that would throw into question that this was politically motivated, especially the timing of it.”
Merrick Garland, attorney general, gave a bizarre address to reporters on Thursday. In which he stated that he authorized the search and that he would ask the judge for the unsealing of the warrant. He also spoke out in defense of federal investigators and the integrity the department. “Faithful adherence to the rule of law is the bedrock principle of the Justice Department and of our democracy,” he said. “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor. Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.”
Still, Republicans on Capitol Hill have without evidence tried to paint the DOJ’s investigation as illegitimate. “President Donald Trump is Joe Biden’s most likeliest [sic] political opponent in 2024 and this is less than 100 days from critical midterm elections,” Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York told reporters Friday. “The FBI raid of President Trump is a complete abuse and overreach of its authority.”
Stefanik suggested that GOP legislators would examine the DOJ if they regain control of Congress following the November election. “A House Republican majority will leave no stone unturned when it comes to transparency and accountability into the brazen politicization of Joe Biden’s DOJ and FBI targeting their political opponents,” she says.
Republicans were focused on the Inflation Reduction Act Friday to criticize the spending of the bill, which contains more than $370 million to combat climate change. The largest investment like this in US history. “Reckless spending in this town is what causes inflation,” Rep. Lauren Boebert, Republican of Colorado, said from the House floor.
But in recent weeks and days, Republicans have been focusing their critiques on the bill on a provision that allocates nearly $80billion to Internal Revenue Service.
“It’s going to create more inflation, not less,” Gohmert says. “It’s going to have the IRS going after the middle class.”
Many well-known Republicans claim the IRS funds will be used for hiring 87,000 more IRS agents. In fact, a Treasury Department report from last year explicitly said that such an investment would enable the agency to hire roughly 87,000 employees—including IT technicians, taxpayer services support staff, and auditors—over 10 years. Most of these hires will be taking over from retired employees. The IRS currently employs approximately half its workforce and can retire. This number is likely to decrease over the next five-year period.
McCarthy, in his address on the House floor, repeated the falsehood: “Is America better off with 87,000 more IRS agents?”
But even if Republicans plan to continue spreading that untruth about the IRS to galvanize their base in the midterms, it’s a line of attack that has, by necessity, taken a backseat to fending off questions about Trump’s legal peril.
Like many GOP legislators on Friday, Gohmert tried to argue that the problem wasn’t Trump’s taking of classified documents, likely jeopardizing national security. The problem was not Trump’s taking of classified documents, but that law enforcement agencies would probe him.
“If the DOJ can come in and seize your materials, then there is no oversight,” he says. “There is no balance of power. “There is no balance of power.” The DOJ plays a dangerous game to end any existing one. And they’re putting our role in our experiment with self-government in real danger.”
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