- Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana recently told Politico that Congress has become a “childish” place.
- “I mean, this isn’t a place where you attract the cream of the crop,” he told the outlet.
- The House in October ousted Kevin McCarthy as speaker, an act that continues to reverberate to this day.
Divided government isn’t the easiest thing for many members of Congress, as the legislative gridlock that ensues often prompts lawmakers to question their effectiveness as elected officials.
Some lawmakers move into their ideological corners, hopeful that their respective political party can win the White House and both chambers of Congress in the next election, while others thrive in times of divided government, using the opportunity to seek bipartisan consensus.
But 2023 has been a difficult year on Capitol Hill altogether, as the Republican-led House has been rocked by unprecedented leadership crises and the eventual ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California as speaker, while lawmakers have continually clashed on short-term spending bills that almost led to government shutdowns.
And with an increasing number of lawmakers calling it quits ahead of the 2024 elections, GOP Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana told Politico that Congress at the current moment has been more reflective of immaturity than the seriousness that’s usually demanded of members.
“This place, right now, I think it’s childish,” Graves said. “I mean, this isn’t a place where you attract the cream of the crop.”
Graves, who has represented a south-central Louisiana district since 2015, considered running for governor this year but opted out of the contest. (Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, a former congressman, was elected to the governorship last month.)
While Graves eventually chose to forgo a gubernatorial bid, others are leaving the House to run for higher office or simply to retire on their own accord. So far, 26 lawmakers (17 Democrats and 9 Republicans) are set to leave the chamber after the 2024 elections.
But the GOP this year has been especially affected by angst among far-right conservatives. With the Republican Party’s slim 221-213 majority, conservatives have had an inordinate amount of influence over the legislative agenda since the beginning of the year.
Republicans struggled to tap McCarthy to the speakership, as it took 15 rounds to get him over the top. And even with McCarthy as speaker, he never earned the trust among a key bloc of conservatives, which eventually led to his downfall.
Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana was elected to the speakership last month after a protracted leadership battle, but tensions remain, as evidenced by the most recent stopgap spending bill being opposed by 93 members of the House Republican Conference. (The bill passed overwhelmingly in a bipartisan 336-95 vote.)
The House has also been animated by a series of high-profile votes and incidents, including the censure of Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan over her remarks regarding the Israel-Hamas war, accusations from GOP Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee that he had been shoved by McCarthy, and the ongoing drama surrounding GOP Rep. George Santos of New York, who in a newly released Ethics Committee report received a scathing review of his conduct.