Should He Stay or Should He Go as Majority Leader?

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) takes questions from reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 21, 2021.
(Elizabeth Frantz/Reuters)

On the menu today: Thirteen House Republicans rescue the infrastructure bill, spurring some of my colleagues to ask whether Kevin McCarthy should be leading House Republicans; researchers discover a gene that makes you particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, and the news is bad for the citizens of India; and a point about how congressional appropriators send out the money and then usually stop paying attention.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy Is on the Hot Seat

Late Friday night, with a tiny bit of genuine drama, the House of Representatives passed the “bipartisan infrastructure framework.”

Thirteen House Republicans voted for the legislation, making the bipartisan label somewhat accurate and a bit more than window dressing.

Perhaps most significantly, those House Republicans effectively helped President Biden get a big legislative win and avert another disappointment, when Democrats already felt fear, confusion, and despair setting in from Tuesday’s election results. Six House Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and members of “the Squad” voted against the legislation. In other words, thanks to Republican votes, the federal government will spend an additional $550 billion in new spending, $1.2 trillion overall, with just $110 billion going to roads and bridges.

In great news for The Weed Agency, the legislation provides “$50 million annually in grants to eliminate, control and prevent invasive plants.”

Our Phil Klein is spitting hot fire over this:

Every Republican who voted for this monstrosity who is not already retiring should be primaried and defeated by candidates who will actually resist the Left-wing agenda. Those who are retiring should be shamed for the rest of their lives. It also is not too soon to be asking whether Representative Kevin McCarthy should be ousted from leadership for his inability to keep his caucus together on such a crucial vote.

I don’t find Kevin McCarthy to be a particularly effective leader of House Republicans and would be fine with seeing someone else lead the GOP in the chamber. But let’s note that no party leader has much leverage over a retiring member, and three of the 13 — Tom Reed of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio — are retiring at the end of this term. Those three, along with the 215 House Democrats who voted yes, guaranteed passage of the bill, even if there were no vacancies (Florida’s 20th district, where Alcee Hastings passed away recently, is one such vacancy), every other Republican had voted no, and the six House Democrats had opposed the bill.

The Squad voted “no” late in the vote-counting, after it was clear the legislation was going to pass. If there hadn’t been enough Republican “yes” votes to ensure passage, the chances are good that enough Democratic “noes” would have flipped to make sure the bill went on to the president’s desk. The Squad got to symbolically show they weren’t willing to accept the promises of the moderates without tanking Biden’s legislative agenda.

Maybe House Republicans need new leadership, but if that’s the case, it’s not because McCarthy couldn’t keep the infrastructure bill from passing.

As for the other ten House Republicans who voted to pass the bill, they’re mostly the usual suspects, the ones who would be most likely to sign on to a big surge in infrastructure spending, those most eager to be seen as bipartisan, or both. Michael Brendan Dougherty summarizes the 13 as “retirees, losers, and haters.”

Don Young of Alaska has rarely if ever seen a spending bill he doesn’t like. Jeff Van Drew has been a Republican for less than two years, and did so because he was a Trumpy populist, not because he ever had an iota of fiscal conservatism in him. Fred Upton of Michigan, Don Bacon of Nebraska, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, John Katko of New York, David McKinley of West Virginia, Christopher Smith of New Jersey — by the standards of House Republicans, these are the big spenders. Recently elected Andrew Garbarino and Nicole Malliotakis are from Long Island and Staten Island respectively, and these are Trumpy but not necessarily heavily Republican parts of the New York City area, where this cooperation with Biden is likely come up in their 2022 reelection campaigns, deflecting charges that they’re reflexively partisan opponents of the president.

The long-term wisdom of their actions now depends upon what happens to the “Build Back Better” or social spending bill, currently $1.75 trillion with a major increase in the state- and local-tax deduction. Moderate House Democrats pledged to pass the Build Back Better legislation after the Congressional Budget Office completes its assessment of the bill’s costs. The CBO is expected to take another two weeks or so.

If the House passes Build Back Better legislation and then the Senate passes it — and that assumes that Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona find the final numbers reasonable — then those House Republicans will look foolish; America will be saddled with another $3 trillion or so in spending and a significant enactment of the progressive left’s agenda. As Kevin Hassett writes today:

The massive expansion of government that has occurred since the pandemic began will have very large long-run costs, which must be weighed carefully and seriously. . . . All told, the real future cost in terms of higher taxes and deadweight loss of the pandemic relief will be about $15 trillion — or about $45,000 for every man, women, or child in society today. If we assume that only the 144 million people who pay taxes shall cover this burden, then the cost rises to $104,000 per person.

If House Democrats start balking after the CBO score, or Manchin and Sinema refuse to sign on, those 13 House Republicans will have figured out how to get something they wanted (infrastructure spending, a reputation for working across the aisle) and leave Democrats paralyzed by infighting and unable to enact what those House Republicans didn’t want (another massive social-spending bill on top of the past COVID-19 relief and infrastructure bill).

Those 13 House Republicans better hope that Manchin and Sinema’s spines are feeling steely in the coming weeks.

Your Genes Can Make You More Vulnerable to COVID-19

This is an important breakthrough, and yet not really all that shocking:

Scientists identified a specific gene that doubles the risk of respiratory failure from Covid-19 and may go some way to explaining why some ethnic groups are more susceptible to severe disease than others.

Researchers from the University of Oxford found that a higher-risk version of the gene most likely prevents the cells lining airways and the lungs from responding to the virus properly. About 60 percent of people with South Asian ancestry carry this version of the gene, compared with 15 percent of people with European heritage, according to the study published Thursday.

The findings help explain why higher rates of hospitalization and death may have been seen in certain communities and on the Indian subcontinent. The authors cautioned that the gene cannot be used as a sole explanation as many other factors, such as socioeconomic conditions, play a role.

People with the gene, known as LZTFL1, would particularly benefit from vaccination, which remains the best method of protection, the authors said. The findings raise the possibility of research into treatments specific to patients with this gene, though no tailored drugs are currently available.

Back in July 2020, I wrote that:

Genes are likely to play a factor in which antibodies are most effective against the virus, just as genes probably play a factor in who can fight off the virus easily and who succumb to it rapidly. . . .

Genetics were probably not the only reason these families were struck [by COVID-19] so severely, but if one parent had genes that made them particularly vulnerable to this particular strain of SARS-CoV-2, they may have passed along those genes to their children. Yet there are people more than 100 years old — sometimes overweight or obese, smokers, and non-exercisers who catch the virus and manage to pull through. They’re blessed with genetics that makes their immune systems and white blood cells work effectively, even if their health is not ideal otherwise.

This news from Oxford prompted David Asher of the Hudson Institute — the man who spearheaded the State Department’s investigation into COVID-19 in 2020 — to wonder if it is a coincidence that SARS-CoV-2 is particularly dangerous to those in India, one of China’s biggest adversaries. It’s probably coincidental; if you wanted to engineer a virus to target one ethnic group, you would want it to be less harmful to your own ethnic group than SARS-CoV-2 has been to the people of China.

But, as laid out in my most recent work of fiction, back in the 1980s, the South African government was definitely exploring which kinds of bioweapons could affect blacks but not whites. Even if the COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t genetically focused bioterrorism, it is extremely likely that somebody, somewhere, someday will want to engineer a virus that only afflicts those with a particular gene.

ADDENDUM: Jay Nordlinger on appropriators:

Will anyone follow up on how the money’s being spent? Whether it’s doing any good? Whether it is helpful or wasted?

In my experience, few care about the follow-up. They care about the bill — whatever it is — and the legislative drama. The politics. But then . . .

You know the expression “My work is done here”? That’s what spenders think when they pass a spending bill. In truth, however, the work is just beginning. Something to keep an eye on, if you can.

Keep an eye on? Few folks paid attention to the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program:

There were also some troubling signs of mismanagement revealed in the data. Over 100 loans were made to companies where no business name was listed, were listed as ‘no name available’ or showed potential data entry errors, such as names that appeared to be dates or phone numbers. More than 300 companies appear to have each gotten more than $10 million in loans through” their subsidiaries. Businesses were not supposed to receive more than $10 million per entity, except for those in the food, hospitality or hotels industries.