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Earlier today, I posed a question to my colleague Russell Berman on Slack: What should we expect if—or is it when?—Republicans retake the House in the midterms? Here is the spirited chat that followed.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
Elaine Godfrey: So, Russell, tell me: Is it a sure thing that Republicans will take back the House this year?
Russell Berman: “Sure thing” is probably a bit much, especially for people who remember making similarly confident predictions about a candidate named Donald Trump. But yes, Republicans are, at this moment, very likely to win back the House. They need to pick up just five seats, and the history of midterm elections alone suggests that they are poised to win more than that. Public outrage from abortion-rights supporters over the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade has given Democrats some hope that they can defy history, concerns over inflation, and President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings—but polls in the past few weeks have trended back toward the GOP a bit.
Elaine: In the event that Republicans do take the House, who is the speaker? Kevin McCarthy? Not everyone is a big fan of his. Do you think anyone will try to challenge him?
Russell: Kevin McCarthy is likely to be the speaker. Note that I did not say “very likely.” The most ardent Trump supporters, including perhaps the former president himself, do not trust McCarthy, and he inspires relatively little loyalty among many rank-and-file House Republicans who view him as an ineffective messenger for the party. McCarthy had the speaker’s gavel nearly in hand once before, after the abrupt exit of John Boehner in 2015, but a poorly timed gaffe ruined his chances.
What McCarthy has going for him this time, however, is that no one has yet stepped up to challenge him, and he has successfully turned some of his former rivals inside the GOP conference into allies. He’ll likely earn some credit for leading the party back into the majority if they win, but if the Republican margin is slim after November, watch out for drama!
Elaine: That’s interesting. Do you think anyone could actually pose a real challenge? Name names, Russell!
Russell: McCarthy’s biggest rival had been Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a longtime rabble-rouser inside the House Freedom Caucus. But McCarthy essentially co-opted Jordan by backing his elevation to prominent roles as the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform committee, then on the House Judiciary committee. The second-ranking House Republican, Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, is waiting in the wings if McCarthy stumbles, but it’s unlikely he would challenge him directly without some precipitating event. The wildest scenario, floated by Representative Matt Gaetz among others, is for Republicans to nominate Trump as speaker (as Congress junkies know, a person does not need to be an elected member of the House to be elected speaker). But the chances of this happening are about as likely as you winning the lottery, Elaine.
Elaine: Trump as speaker of the House would be a wild thing to behold.
We’ve been hearing a lot about an upcoming flood of investigations from Republicans should they come back into power in the House. What kind of investigations are we talking about here? Do you think some of these folks will try to impeach Biden right away?
Russell: Have you heard of Hunter Biden, the president’s surviving son? If by some chance you haven’t, you and every other American surely will if and when Republicans control the House. They have pledged to pursue all manner of investigations against the younger Biden and his business ventures overseas. Republicans are also almost certain to launch investigations over the Biden administration’s southern-border policy and the criminal probes into Trump and his allies by the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland.
As for impeachment(s), Trump loyalists such as Gaetz and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene have made clear that they expect GOP leaders to back the attempted removal not only of Biden but of members of his Cabinet, including Garland and the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Of course, the chances of the Senate mustering 67 votes for a conviction of Biden, Garland, or Mayorkas, even if Republicans recapture that chamber, are next to nil—a fact GOP leaders are well aware of.
Notably, McCarthy told Punchbowl News this week that he doesn’t currently see grounds for impeaching anyone in the Biden administration, and he doesn’t think the public would support what he called “political” impeachments. So this will be a fascinating—and potentially self-destructive—tension to watch unfold within the House GOP over the next year or two.
Elaine: To change course a little bit ... I was reading a story this morning about Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene and her role in the next Congress. Given that the Republican base has really rewarded the GOP members who spend time in the trenches of the culture wars, do you think that Greene and some of these other loud far-right folks we’ve heard a lot from—Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, and the like—will get prominent committee assignments in a Republican majority or otherwise play some more significant role?
Russell: Greene and Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona will almost certainly see their committee assignments restored if Republicans win. But politicians such as Greene, Boebert, and Gaetz have shown that they don’t need high-profile committee or formal leadership posts to make waves and, frankly, cause headaches for GOP leaders. The inherent power of serving in the majority will make that even easier for them, especially if the Republican margin is slim enough that a small group of MAGA warriors can exert leverage over McCarthy and his team—either before the initial vote for speaker or in the months after. Greene has already promised to keep the pressure on him, so that awkward dynamic is one of the safer predictions for a GOP majority in the House next year.
Elaine: Before we wrap, I wanted to ask about democracy, something I know you are a big fan of.
Donald Trump has been lying about widespread fraud in the 2020 election for almost two years now, and Republicans up and down the ballot, all over the country, have taken action in response. Most of that action—on voting legislation and some of the more sinister election tinkering—has been happening at the state and local levels. But would a Republican House have an impact on elections and the future of democracy?
Russell: It’s virtually impossible for Republicans to succeed in enacting legislation that restricts voting or threatens election systems while Biden is in office. Even if a slim GOP majority in the Senate were to figure out a way around the filibuster, Biden would have his veto pen ready. The bigger concern is whether a Republican House majority tries to overturn a Democratic presidential victory in 2024, either by blocking its certification (which GOP lawmakers tried but failed to do in 2020) or by accepting sham slates of electors sent in by GOP-controlled state legislatures. Technically, the Congress that will oversee the certification in 2024 won’t be elected until that November, but a big Republican win this year will make it more likely that they’ll retain the majority two years from now.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin declared martial law in four regions of Ukraine that he has illegally annexed.
- Donald Trump will answer questions under oath in the defamation lawsuit against him by the writer E. Jean Carroll.
- The IRS announced that Americans will see some adjustments for inflation in the tax code next year, and that the size of the standard deduction will increase by 7 percent.
- Peacefield: Tom Nichols talks with the presidential historian Steve Knott about how their views of JFK’s legacy have evolved.
- Up for Debate: Conor Friedersdorf studies the wider implications of the L.A. City Council racism scandal.
- The Weekly Planet: China accidentally made our gas much cheaper, Robinson Meyer writes.
Desperate Americans Are Getting Botox for Their Teeth
By Ali Francis
With the pinch of a needle, cosmetic dermatologists such as Michele Green can make forehead wrinkles disappear and deep-furrowed crow’s-feet puff back out like yeasted dough. Botox is totally magic, a little unsettling, and very in demand: Green’s New York City practice has been swamped as Americans seek to give themselves a “post-pandemic” glow-up. But these days, many of her patients aren’t after eternal youth and sex appeal. When Green reviews her schedule for the week each Monday morning, she told me, “I’m just like, Oh my god.” At least a quarter of her Botox appointments are for people with a different motive entirely: They can’t stop clenching their jaw and grinding their teeth.
More From The Atlantic
Read. Joe Coscarelli’s Rap Capital: An Atlanta Story explores what it takes to make it in the country’s hip-hop epicenter.
Watch. Documentary Now! (streaming on AMC+), which returns for its fourth season tonight, is TV’s last truly unbothered show.
In case you missed it: Check out Sophie’s Gilbert’s 27 favorite things in culture from the new weekend edition of the Daily.
At 12 p.m. ET tomorrow, join Atlantic journalists David Graham, Mark Leibovich, and Elaina Plott as they examine potential outcomes of the 2022 midterms—and consider what’s at stake in November. Register here.
More than 50 of you wrote to me after Monday’s Daily, in which I solicited suggestions for World War II documentaries and shows. I am determined to write back to each of you, but in the meantime, I want to share two of the most frequent recommendations.
Many readers suggested that I watch Victory at Sea, a documentary TV series about naval operations during the war that was first released in 1952 and scored by the NBC Symphony Orchestra. I’ve found the entire series on YouTube, and I can’t wait to see it: My grandfather worked as a Navy radio man on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific theater.
In the realm of fiction, many people recommended Un Village Français (“A French Village”), a show on Amazon Prime that’s set in German-occupied France. I actually watched all seven seasons of this show last year, and I fully endorse it for its (overall) historical accuracy, romance, and deeply flawed, deeply human characters. I recommend viewing this curled up on the couch with hot tea and a blanket.
Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.