If you’re wondering what the House of Representatives will be like if Republicans wind up controlling it next year, the fate of a routine resolution honoring a trailblazing Florida judge tells you everything you need to know. As the New York Times reported, nobody initially had an issue with naming a federal courthouse in Tallahassee after Justice Joseph W. Hatchett, the first Black State Supreme Court member south of the Mason-Dixon line, who died last year. Then an extremist freshman House member from Georgia objected and everything went to hell immediately.
The member in question was not Marjorie Taylor Greene but her buddy Andrew Clyde. While Clyde is far less well known than his fellow Georgia representative, he has made headlines for racking up fines to protest House COVID-19 mask rules and suing the House to abolish the metal detectors designed to keep shooting irons off the House floor (he is a gun dealer by trade). Clyde has the sort of voting record on racial-justice issues that might lead less ideological members to seek some cover. Per the Times:
He also opposed the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, which made lynching a federal hate crime and explicitly outlawed an act that was symbolic of the country’s history of racial violence. Mr. Clyde also voted against recognizing Juneteenth as a federal holiday.
In this latest incident, a Clyde staffer figured out that, in 1999, as part of a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, Justice Hatchett had ruled that a student-organized prayer at a public-high-school graduation violated the long-standing U.S. Supreme Court ban on school-sponsored religious activities. This offended Clyde, even though (a) this is a tiny part of Hatchett’s long and distinguished record on state and federal benches and (b) Hatchett wasn’t setting school-prayer policy but interpreting a binding Supreme Court precedent.
When Clyde sent up a flare on this exceptionally bogus objection, House Republicans stampeded against the resolution naming the courthouse, with 186 out of 205 voting “nay” and denying it the two-thirds vote needed for approval. The nays included House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, which sent a big fat message to Clyde, Greene, and other MAGA bravos in the House that he wasn’t going to touch anything, however harmless, that was “controversial” to the fringe elements of his caucus.
The demise of the measure honoring Hatchett came as a surprise to Florida’s House Democrats.
“If the standard that we use is one ruling out of thousands, then what else could we conclude but that they are not willing to name a courthouse after a Black person,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat. “It seems pretty suspect.”
But it also startled Florida Republican senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, who joined the rest of their delegation in sponsoring the resolution, which passed the Senate on a voice vote. As the Times reported, “Mr. Rubio has expressed optimism that the setback will be temporary and that Congress will find a way to name the courthouse after Judge Hatchett.”
Scott had praised the resolution earlier because Hatchett “broke barriers that have inspired countless others in the legal profession.” Nobody is more pro-religion or anti-wokeness than Scott, whose proposed agenda for the next Congress is the gold standard for extremism in the defense of Donald Trump’s idea of liberty.
If Clyde defines the acceptable boundaries of tolerance for our independent judiciary, his party, and our country, we are in a lot of trouble. And McCarthy is letting it be known that he won’t offer any profiles in courage as House Speaker, unless he has plenty of votes to spare.
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