When Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Paul Gosar were spotted conversing on the House floor Tuesday afternoon, observers were curious to know what the New York Democrat and Arizona Republican could have to chat about so casually. After all, Gosar was stripped of his committee appointments in 2021 for posting an anime video of himself attacking and killing Ocasio-Cortez.
The topic at hand turned out to be what was playing out in front of them, as the new Republican majority attempted and failed to elect a House speaker. Without a House speaker, none of the representatives could be sworn in, and House business was at a standstill.
Ocasio-Cortez told MSNBC’s Alex Wagner later Tuesday that Gosar had brought up the possibility of Republicans cutting a deal with Democrats that could secure the speakership for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). Challenges brought by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and others meant that three rounds of voting on Tuesday failed to reach the necessary total to elect McCarthy.
Ocasio-Cortez said with a laugh: “I think in chaos anything is possible, especially in this era.” But she signaled that the possibility of a deal of any kind was not going to happen.
She explained how things happen in the House when there is no consensus.
“Sometimes the leadership of your party ― in this case, the Republican Party ― will be making claims in order to try to twist arms and get people in line, and a lot of times, information and truth is currency.”
She continued: “So, sometimes, to be able to fact-check some of the claims that McCarthy is making, whether Democrats are going to defect or not, et cetera, is important in order to keep him honest and to keep people honest in general.”
Democrats rallied around Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to lead their caucus back in November, and lined up behind him in Tuesday’s speaker votes without issue. He is expected to formally become minority leader once the speakership is decided and lawmakers are sworn in.
“I think what was important today,” Ocasio-Cortez continued, “was to send the message we were united behind Hakeem Jeffries as the now-minority leader, or as leader of the Democrats, and that there would be no defections.”
Gaetz was also caught on camera speaking with Ocasio-Cortez in what she described as a similar conversation.
Jeffries also said Tuesday evening that Democrats will not help Republicans navigate their own internal chaos.
“We are looking for a willing partner to solve problems for the American people, not save the Republicans from their dysfunction,” Jeffries said.
Oddly enough, the camera shots of Ocasio-Cortez and Gosar, and Ocasio-Cortez and Gaetz, were only possible because of the House dysfunction.
The leaders of the House and Senate normally limit C-SPAN, the nonprofit that broadcasts federal government proceedings, to airing very wide shots and spotlights on anyone speaking ― not panning to the sidelines for reactions or a view on who is talking to whom. With no one formally seated in the House, C-SPAN was allowed to direct the cameras to the most interesting goings-on.