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The House has a speaker, but infighting continues among the House GOP

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House Republicans seem to be having a moment of togetherness last month, after they overcame weeks of party infighting and finally elected a speaker. But that solidarity quickly faded as one wing of congressional Republicans broke out into public arguments with each other. The animosity threatens to prevent House speaker Mike Johnson from delivering on his promise to unite them and get Congress back to work. NPR congressional correspondent Claudia Grisales has more.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Mike. Mike. Mike.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: A little more than two weeks ago, House Republicans were electrified, chanting the name of Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson to lead them as speaker. Johnson said it marked a new chapter.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE JOHNSON: This conference that you see, this House Republican majority is united.

(APPLAUSE)

GRISALES: But it only took a couple of days to return to the infighting that has consumed this GOP conference.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

JASON SMITH: Let me just tell you, if Matt Gaetz's lips are moving, it's only lies that's coming out of it.

MATT GAETZ: There might not be another member of Congress who lives a lie every day more than Jason Smith.

CHIP ROY: She can play the game she wants or whatever. I mean...

MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE: He attacked me first, so I called him Colonel Sanders.

GRISALES: That's House Ways and Means chairman Jason Smith, Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, Texas Congressman Chip Roy and Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene. After Smith called Gaetz a liar on a local Missouri radio show, Gaetz fired back from his podcast. More recently, Greene attacked Roy and other Republicans on social media who voted against one of her legislative resolutions. Greene argues the intraparty fights are the nature of the congressional beast.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREENE: Politics is definitely a place where we argue ideas and ways to accomplish things, and it's definitely on display all the time here.

GRISALES: But a lot of these arguments are not about ideas or policies. They're very personal. In fact, they've gotten in the way of Republicans' ability to unify on big things like avoiding a government shutdown next week, not to mention more controversial things like aid for Israel and Ukraine. Arkansas Republican Steve Womack says this isn't the olden days when members of Congress could have heated fights during the day, followed by joint dinners that night.

STEVE WOMACK: You know, I long for those days. That's the way it was designed, and that's the way it ought to function. But sadly, today there are too many personalities involved, and that's regretful. It gets in the way of us getting our work done, and our work is pretty important.

GRISALES: And Womack knows what it's like to get personal. His family was targeted recently after Womack joked on social media about a failed House floor vote to expel New York Congressman George Santos. Santos, who is facing a long list of criminal probes, attacked Womack's son, who has faced a struggle with drug addiction.

WOMACK: You know, those are, you know, childish acts really, when you resort to going on social media and, you know, crossing red lines for a lot of members, you know, involving their families.

GRISALES: Santos later apologized, telling NPR it was the right thing to do, but he declined to comment further. Republicans say a number of factors are fueling the clashes, including the recent speaker fight. Here's Missouri freshman Mark Alford.

MARK ALFORD: I think the three weeks of not having a rudder on our ship made everyone realize we need to look within ourselves, find what we need to improve upon and how we can help to move forward as a conference.

GRISALES: Many members said the way to do that is to start to forgive. Take Ways and Means chairman Jason Smith. He blamed Gaetz for much of the chaos last month in an interview on Missouri's local "Marc Cox Show." Gaetz returned fire on his own podcast with a vague allegation that Smith is living a lie. Smith later said he was capable of forgiveness.

SMITH: Gaetz says a lot of things. A lot of members says a lot of things. People's personalities get upset. I forgive people.

GRISALES: Many Republicans agreed that the best way to move forward is to pass legislation together. Chip Roy of Texas says he's hopeful Johnson can help set that new tone.

ROY: It's like a fresh start, right? There's not - I don't mean this pejoratively, but he doesn't come with baggage.

GRISALES: The ongoing skirmishes will require a lot of forgiveness to move the conference forward, but it's not clear it can go far enough to repair the lingering damage from recent weeks. Claudia Grisales, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.