Have you ever heard the phrase "this is going to hurt me more than it does you?" That's where Democrats find themselves today as they prepare to discipline Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
The Dem-controlled House of Representatives will vote today to censure Gosar and strip him of his committee assignments. The congressman has surely earned the rebuke, which comes after he used his social media accounts to share an anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and physically attacking President Biden. Republicans have failed to discipline Gosar — who routinely pals around with white nationalists — so Democrats are going to do it for them.
The punishment is probably going to hurt Dems more than it does Gosar, however.
In all likelihood, Democrats won't hold a House majority much longer — they're probably going to get wiped out by Republicans in next year's midterms. When that happens, GOP leaders will be looking for revenge. Punchbowl News reports that Republican lawmakers are already talking about targeting Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) for removal from their committees.
This shouldn't be a surprise: Such punishments used to be relatively rare in Congress, but today's vote will be the second time the mechanism has been used just this year. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) lost her committee assignments in February based on her past violent and anti-Semitic public comments. That's probably a sign of how extreme the Republican Party has become, but GOP leaders will argue instead that Democrats have set a precedent by "weaponizing" the process.
What's more, if committee-stripping becomes routine in Congress, Democrats will pay disproportionately because they care more about actually governing. With former President Donald Trump as their example, Republicans are increasingly more interested in putting on a show. Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) notably built his staff "around comms rather than legislation," a choice to maximize his chances to get on Fox News rather than do actual work. Greene doesn't seem to have been hurt by her punishment; it just freed her up to raise money and draw attention to herself by accosting prominent Democrats in Capitol hallways. For some GOP members of Congress, being freed of job duties might not actually be a punishment.
All of this means Democrats have a choice between taking the pain that is surely coming, or standing aside and doing nothing while members like Gosar promote violence against their colleagues. They're doing the right thing, but it will come with a cost. These days, it often seems like there are no good choices left.