The Surge

Slate’s guide to the most important figures in politics this week.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Surge. The Capitol will open for visitors again on Monday, but why visit when you can learn all you need to know about the place in this newsletter? True fact: You can’t tell from TV, but none of the senators wear pants.

This week, we look again at the infrastructure debate, and how Democrats want to pay for it with Republican human sacrifices, and vice versa. You can see the possible deal, no? Weirdly, though, with all that “Washington yammerin’ ” in the background, the Senate is being relatively productive (more than zero percent) on some other bipartisan legislation. Nancy Pelosi was at her peak this week—holding the line without a defection on a difficult vote, and then nearly canceling herself the instant she had to speak publicly—and Rep. Steve Stivers is continuing the proud Ohio tradition of quitting midterm to lead an Ohio business trade association.

And while we will talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene, let’s first talk about the actual worst member of Congress.

Paul Gosar.
Rep. Paul Gosar. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Rank 1

Last Week

1. Paul Gosar

The worst member of Congress.

The media generally cannot get enough of writing about right-wing nutcases in the House Republican caucuses, yet somehow Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, D.D.S., seems to fly under the radar relative to Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Louie Gohmert, or Lauren Boebert. But Gosar is probably the most far-gone nativist member in Congress. No one in Congress was more devoted to the “Stop the Steal” cause, for which he organized rallies. “Once we conquer the Hill,” Gosar said at a December rally in Arizona, “Donald Trump is returned to being president.” He got the first part right, at least, on Jan. 6. In February, Gosar was the only sitting member of Congress to speak at a white nationalist event, the America First Political Action Conference, after which the crowd chanted his name. And just recently, Gosar, along with Greene, was busted after an early platform draft for their proposed “America First Caucus,” rife with nativist dog whistles about preserving “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” (in the section about immigration) and restoring the “architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture.” Gosar denied authorship of the memo, and the proposed caucus fizzled out faster than the soccer super league. If you think of Greene as the person who reads baffling nativist conspiracies online and shares them on Facebook, think of Gosar as the reply guy in the comments saying you didn’t know this? His own family hates him, and he hates the pope. He maintains his membership on the Natural Resources Committee, as well as the Oversight and Reform Committee.

Rank 2

Last Week

2. Shelley Moore Capito

The only thing more fun than infrastructure spending is paying for it by undoing the other side’s signature legislative achievement.

Republicans are finally putting a counteroffer to Joe Biden’s $2.2 trillion infrastructure plan to paper. Led by Shelley Moore Capito, the GOP’s proposal, going by early reports, would clock in between $550 billion and $880 billion, depending on the time horizon. The price tag itself is not the biggest concern, as Democrats could always use reconciliation later to tack on what the bipartisan market wouldn’t bear. The bigger issue about reaching a bipartisan agreement is how to pay for it. Democrats and the Biden administration are against increasing (or creating new) user fees and prefer to raise taxes on corporations. The Capito-led plan, meanwhile, would be funded through some combination of new user fees for electric vehicles (eat shit, Prius libs), public-private partnerships, and … repurposing money from Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill, like the $350 billion for state and local aid. In other words, each side wants to pay for lovely new roads and bridges with the single biggest nonstarter for the other side. How should they proceed? That’s a choice for the Democrats, whose pay-for is more popular, to make.

Rank 3

Last Week

3. Chuck Schumer

They really are doing other bipartisan stuff, though.

You may not have heard about it (and we may not have written about it [GRIMACE EMOJI]), but as the two parties fumble about trying to find if there’s a bipartisan path forward on infrastructure, there’s a real, live bipartisan bill addressing another pressing issue moving through the Senate. When Democrats, led by Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, introduced a bill to stem hate crimes against Asian Americans a few weeks ago, it seemed like something that Republicans would filibuster for going too far, and then everyone would just yell at one another about who was to blame and they’d all fly home. Instead, a couple of teams of senators are working out bipartisan amendments to clean up certain differences, and now it’s moving through the chamber. There may be more where that came from. This week, Sens. Chuck Schumer—who runs the joint—and Todd Young, the Republican senior senator from Indiana, paired up to introduced the Endless Frontier Act, designed to beef up competitiveness with China in advanced technology and manufacturing. Its co-sponsors span the full ideological gamut in both the Senate and the House, from South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham to New York Rep. Jamaal Bowman. So lawmakers are hoping to take it up in the coming months. Sure, fine, the process is working in some areas, blah blah, snooze. Back to the FIGHTS!

Rank 4

Last Week

4. Nancy Pelosi

Another day of masterful vote counting and getting TKO’d by a microphone.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week forced a vote to censure Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters for saying protesters in Minnesota should “get more confrontational” and “make sure they know we mean business” in the event of a not-guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. Not all House Democrats were exactly in love with Waters’ comments, and their leaders could only afford a few defections. The situation was serious enough that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer were each posted at the doors to the House chamber during the vote catching members on their way in. In the end, the censure resolution was killed, and an impressive zero Democrats broke ranks. It was a typically expert demonstration of lining up the votes from Pelosi and House Democratic leadership. After the Chauvin guilty verdict came in, though, Pelosi met her age-old foes: the microphone and the television camera. “Thank you, George Floyd, for sacrificing your life for justice,” she said, while looking upward to the sky. The entirety of the global population had been manned at their internet battle stations scouring for bad takes after the verdict to dunk on. And though the Las Vegas Raiders ultimately took the gold, Pelosi still made the podium.

Rank 5

Last Week

5. Joe Manchin

What will he allow the government to do this week?

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what Congress can do, but so far haven’t checked in on what Joe Manchin will allow it to do. This will be brief. The labor-backed PRO Act? Manchin says … yes??? Whoa. Now advocates just need to work on the likes of Sens. Mark “Big Management Energy” Warner and Kyrsten “Fuck Off” Sinema. Fifteen-dollar minimum wage? Not just going to not do it, but going to make fun of Bernie Sanders, in front of the restaurant lobby, for wanting to do it. On the other hand, he is with Biden on funding the infrastructure bill through corporate tax hikes instead of user fees, just so long as the corporate tax rate isn’t above 25 percent. The filibuster? Still loves it.

Rank 6

Last Week

6. Steve Stivers

Nope, we are not waiting for a third example to declare “going full Tiberi” a trend.

In October 2017, veteran Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi announced out of nowhere that he would retire before his term ended to take a job with the Ohio Business Roundtable. Life is a journey! We recalled this bit of trivia this week, when Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers announced out of nowhere that he would retire before his term ended to take a job with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Now technically, under the Ancient Rules of Trend Piece Writing, we are supposed to wait for, say, Ohio Rep. Bob Latta to quit midterm to take a job with, say, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association before declaring this a trend. But the Surge doesn’t follow “rules”—what’s that, officer? Turn the noise down? Yes, yes, sorry, oh my God so sorry, doing it now!—um, doesn’t follow “rules,” and we’re declaring “going full Tiberi” the hot new trend among Ohio Republican lawmakers. The move will also allow House Democrats to breathe just a bit: After several members left to join the Biden administration, and Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings died, Democrats’ already-narrow margin had been narrowing further.

Rank 7

Last Week

7. Marjorie Taylor Greene

Let’s see how Democrats get around THIS. [Democrats easily get around it.]

We began with Gosar, so let’s just end with Greene. You may recall from earlier this spring when conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus began requesting roll-call votes on even the most uncontroversial of bills—so called suspension bills, as they’re expedited under suspension of the rules—in part as a protest of the House voting to strip Greene of her committee assignments. This required members to be on the floor, instead of doing anything useful, for hours at a time for bills that would pass by 400-vote margins. But the House is not the Senate, and one person deciding for the first time to abuse a parliamentary procedure does not set a precedent that seizes up the chamber for decades: The House just changes its rules. This week, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern came up with a (for now, temporary) rule to vote on suspension bills for which roll-call votes were requested “en bloc,” rather than one at a time. Greene was outraged with the rule change. Ah, well.