Lauren Boebert’s opposition to Kevin McCarthy underlines far-right leverage over GOP

No matter what concessions fellow Republicans threw her way, no matter how much pressure she faced in or out of Congress, Colorado’s U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert held fast in her opposition to U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for Speaker of the House.

The slim Republican majority in the House is already working in Boebert’s favor, offering her and a few other far-right members leverage over hundreds of their colleagues. And political experts say it’s not yet clear whether she’ll face any consequences for her dissension. GOP leaders, they say, might not be able to afford to alienate the Western Slope congresswoman further.

If House members eventually elect McCarthy as speaker “he obviously has a very thin majority,” Seth Masket, a political scientist with the University of Denver, said, “and can’t really afford to alienate much of his caucus.”

At the same time, however, Boebert narrowly won reelection in November and holding out against McCarthy now likely means “she really can’t expect a lot of help from him in the next election cycle,” Masket said.

As of Friday afternoon the House remained deadlocked and Boebert — who did not respond to a request for comment — showed no sign of changing her position.

Former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch, who lost his congressional bid to Boebert by 546 votes, said the congresswoman’s actions this week show little change from her behavior before the November election.

Boebert’s near loss stemmed, in part, because voters in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, have grown tired of the “circus” and “anger-tainment,” Frisch said. Every moment the congresswoman spends bickering over the Speaker of the House is a moment she’s not working for her constituents.

“Maybe she wants to win by two votes instead of 546 votes next time,” Frisch said.

But perhaps Boebert expects the 2024 election cycle to work in her favor, Masket said. She had blamed weak up-ticket Republican candidates for playing a role in her poor showing in 2022.

Boebert might believe “her path to future success is to continue to be a highly visible thorn in the side rather than a loyal party member,” Masket said.

So far, Frisch has not said whether he’ll run for the office again, though he told The Denver Post that he’s seriously considering the possibility.

In the meantime, Boebert will be in Congress for the next two years and McCarthy (assuming he wins the Speaker gavel) could strip her of committee assignments or place her on low-profile committees, Casey Burgat, a legislative affairs program director at George Washington University, said. He could also deny her the ability to introduce or amend bills.

McCarthy could also restrict Boebert’s access to Republican fundraising mechanisms or other resources, Burgat, a Fort Collins native, said.

Like Masket, however, Burgat acknowledged that McCarthy will still need Boebert’s vote (and that of the other dissenters) for GOP initiatives.

“So, he may try to work them back into the fold and chalk this up to a ‘messy democratic process,’” Burgat said. “He doesn’t have the margins to create full-scale enemies in his conference.”

Without a Speaker of the House, new members of the chamber can’t be sworn in and so Congress can’t pass legislation. Boebert told The Independent that the disorder is acceptable because it means the United States isn’t sending more money to help Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion.

Representatives still opposed to a McCarthy speakership whittled down to single digits Friday afternoon, but the California Republican can only afford to lose four votes and still win the majority.

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