At No. 434 in the seniority ranks, Rep. Celeste Maloy (R-Utah) is entering the House during one of the craziest, most chaotic congressional sessions in recent memory.
Maloy succeeded former GOP Rep. Chris Stewart in Utah’s 2nd District after he stepped down due to family health issues. Maloy was sworn in at the end of November following a drama-filled fall dominated by House GOP infighting and a three-week speaker battle.
We caught up with Congress’ newest member this week to see what she thinks of the House drama, her experience so far and what to expect in 2024.
GOP fighting: Maloy said Republicans have to start uniting around issues they agree on, whether that’s border security or education reform, instead of wasting the majority by fighting each other.
“The things we disagree on are more ancillary, and I think we’ve been spending a lot of time focused on the things we disagree on,” Maloy said.
Maloy added: “If we can be disciplined, stick to the basics, talk about the things we agree on and legislate on the things we agree on, that’s going to help us when we have to deal with things where the conference is divided.”
Of course, that’s easier said than done with a conference that booted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy in October and continues to tussle over nearly every issue that arises.
Staff experience: Maloy is no stranger to congressional politics. She served as Stewart’s legal counsel before taking his seat.
“I’m learning that what my boss was doing all day was not as connected to what I was doing all day as I thought,” Maloy said.
Maloy also missed out on getting a freshmen orientation since she came in in the middle of the Congress. Maloy credits her staff experience as coming in handy in this case.
“It would be a lot tougher to get up to speed if I didn’t already have a good background in this district and know what’s happening,” Maloy said. “I don’t know how anybody comes in fresh without some background in how the Hill works.”
On Speaker Mike Johnson: Maloy came to Congress roughly a month after Speaker Mike Johnson won the gavel. Both are still finding their footing in their new positions.
Maloy said she reached out to Johnson before the NDAA vote last week to ensure leadership can move forward with FISA reforms, which have been a subject of much consternation within the Republican Conference.
The NDAA includes a short-term FISA extension. But Johnson had originally wanted to put two dueling long-term reauthorizations up for a vote last week. Johnson nixed that plan after rank-and-file Republicans protested the move.
Retirements: Maloy expressed concerns about the loss of institutional knowledge that will follow the wave of retirements this Congress. Fifty lawmakers have announced plans to retire, run for higher office or have left Congress early.
Maloy said she’s hopeful that the departures will allow younger members like herself to reshape how Congress works.
“It gives an opportunity for a lot of fresh faces to come in who don’t have any of the baggage or the biases about what we’ve already tried,” Maloy said. “I’m still optimistic about what we’re going to be able to get done.”
— Mica Soellner