Three days, three actions and already a chilling message: don’t oppose us because we can make you regret it. The new Trump-inspired House Republican majority has already begun to lay the groundwork for retaliation against its enemies.
On the first day they tried unsuccessfully to get rid of the Office of Congressional Ethics and replace it with a new and toothless Office of Congressional Complaint Review, a transparent effort to protect themselves. The new unit’s title implied it would deal with complaints but not with ethics. The backlash was so quick and loud that the idea was dropped the same day.
On the second day the House Republicans approved a rules package that would allow staff members to subpoena private citizens and government employees to be questioned under oath without an elected representative present. The threat of a subpoena for interrogation can be intimidating, especially if the questioner wasn’t elected.
On the third day Republicans reinstated an arcane rule dating to 1876 that allows any member to cut the annual pay of a federal worker to as little as $1 and to cut the budget for any federal program to zero simply by amending an appropriations bill. That says, in plainer language, if you don’t do as I say you’re fired. Or we’ll trash the program. The job threat would affect any of two million federal workers not counting postal service and military.
And finally Trump the master, not liking what the CIA has said about Russian involvement in his election, is reportedly threatening to reorganize the agency. Given how little he knows about intelligence gathering, that sounds very much like a threat against the professionals who displeased him.
A clear pattern thus has formed in the first week. It’s not Nazism, not yet. But it smells like it.