When they write the history of Rep. Ken Buck, several episodes are sure to stand out.
There was the time he was tied to an accusation of election fraud in a scheme apparently meant to help his ex-wife’s election as a Weld County commissioner.
And the time he attended a rally wearing a T-shirt (tucked in, to be sure) that blared “Kill ‘Em All.”
And the time a recording of a private call revealed that Buck, a former prosecutor, pressured a local party official to commit what one person on the call termed “perjury.”
And the time when as a federal prosecutor his loose lips got him reprimanded by the U.S. attorney in Denver, effectively ending his career in the Justice Department.
But certainly his exasperating actions in recent days will merit mention near the top of his bio. He was one of just eight Republicans who voted, along with Democrats, to vacate the U.S. House speaker chair and boot the GOP’s own Rep. Kevin McCarthy from the position. Such a thing had never been done before in the history of Congress, which is now in utter disarray.
As of this writing, more than two weeks later, the GOP majority’s infighting has left the House stone paralyzed and Republicans have proved incapable of selecting a new speaker.
This comes at a time when Congress is racing toward a mid-November deadline to figure out how to keep the federal government funded and when multiple international crises, particularly in Israel but also in Ukraine, demand American leadership.
What was Buck thinking?
That’s a question many of his own colleagues have been asking. “Middle school grudges.” “Actively destructive to the conservative movement.” “Chaos.” “Shameful.” “Disgusting.” “All about getting attention.”
That’s how Republicans have characterized what the vacating eight has wrought, led by looney-right Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who introduced the measure to oust McCarthy.
“We have a House Republican majority elected by the American people to serve as a check and balance on (President) Joe Biden, to rein in reckless, wasteful spending, and to fight to secure our border, and all of that work, all of that important work, has now been upended by these eight selfish people,” Rep. Mike Lawler, Republican of New York, said, adding that their actions served to “upend the institution of the House and create a constitutional crisis.”
Even Doug Lamborn, a GOP colleague from the neighboring 5th Congressional District of Colorado, said McCarthy’s removal was “an unfortunate episode in the history of the Republican Party in Congress.”
Buck did offer justification for his vote, saying McCarthy failed to cut government spending enough. But even fiscal conservatives rolled their eyes at this reasoning, considering the scale of the wreckage that resulted.
There’s a sense that Buck has his eye on his post-government career and feels he can afford to play fast and loose with his late-stage legislative record.
Buck sustained a contrarian streak. As House members voted this week on GOP nominee Rep. Jim Jordan for the speakership, Buck helped deny the Ohio congressman success. He cited concerns about Jordan’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection and “the inability to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the election.”
Jordan is one of the most dangerously Trumpist members of the House, and Buck’s reservations might be admirable on their own. But they’re hard to take seriously, since as one of the vacating eight he aligned himself with a cause that’s indelibly associated with Gaetz, the most Trumpist member there is.
There’s a sense that Buck has his eye on his post-government career and feels he can afford to play fast and loose with his late-stage legislative record. He reportedly expressed interest in joining CNN or another station as a talking head. Just think — all this time Coloradans thought no one could beat Silt Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert for attention-seeking, media-craving single-mindedness when in fact Buck might take the prize for leaving a trail of institutional decay as he rehearses for a gig performing in front of the camera.
But Buck has a lot more rehearsing to do. After a cringey start to an appearance with CNN’s Dana Bash on Tuesday, Buck felt it necessary to clarify on social media that his odd declaration about a Republican colleague from Minnesota — “I don’t like Tom Emmer” — was “a joke.”
When the history of Rep. Ken Buck is written, it might include accounts of his future turn as a TV commentator. If he performs in that line of work like he does in the House, history must call it what it is: A clown show.
This article initially appeared in Colorado Newsline, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: [email protected]. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.