Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina has worked hard to cultivate an image as a different sort of Republican — one willing to publicly criticize former President Donald J. Trump and the party’s embrace of the far right, even as she usually votes the party line and has come to adopt some of the same rhetoric.
That image was on full display on Wednesday at the Washington Press Club Foundation’s annual dinner — one of several chummy galas where politicians and journalists poke fun at the people, actions and inaction that affect 330 million Americans’ lives, before returning to the White House and the Capitol to get back to the action. Or inaction.
In frequently bawdy terms, Ms. Mace joked about the 15 votes and the substantial concessions to the right-wing Freedom Caucus that it took for Representative Kevin McCarthy to be elected House speaker; the Jan. 6 riot; antisemitic comments from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia; and even the child sex trafficking investigation involving Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida.
In a jab at Mr. McCarthy, she said: “I haven’t seen someone assume that many positions to appease the crazy Republicans since Stormy Daniels,” referring to the pornographic film actress who said Mr. Trump had paid her $130,000 not to talk publicly about an affair she said they had.
“Let’s be honest: We all knew Matt Gaetz would never let the vote get to 18,” she said, adding that Mr. Gaetz would have been in attendance if only he could have found a babysitter — “to be his date.” It was revealed in 2021 that Mr. Gaetz was the subject of a Justice Department investigation over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old and paid for her to travel with him. (He denies the allegations and has not been charged with any crime.)
A Divided Congress
The 118th Congress is underway, with Republicans controlling the House and Democrats holding the Senate.
- A New Normal: The eruptions of Republican vitriol against President Biden during his State of the Union address underscored a new and notably coarse normal for the G.O.P.-led House.
- Twitter: House Republicans called a hearing to scrutinize whether the social media platform has censored the right, but it yielded new revelations about Twitter’s permissive approach.
- Covid: In a House hearing, the acting director of the National Institutes of Health pushed back against Republicans’ assertions that a lab leak stemming from taxpayer-funded research may have caused the coronavirus pandemic.
- Performative Patriotism: A 43-minute recitation of the Constitution by House Republicans was the latest in a series of acts of public patriotism, ranging from the sincere to the performative.
Ms. Mace also managed to combine into one joke two of the biggest elephants in any room containing congressional Republicans: Mr. Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him, and the fact that one of the G.O.P.’s newly elected members, Representative George Santos of New York, fabricated nearly his entire résumé.
“Really, who lies about playing college volleyball? Like, who does that?” she said of Mr. Santos, who, among many other things, claimed to have been a member of Baruch College’s volleyball team. “If you’re going to lie, at least make it about something big, like you actually won the 2020 presidential election.”
Senator Raphael Warnock, Democrat of Georgia, also spoke at the dinner and joined in the mocking of Mr. Santos, working him — and his alleged mishandling of donations to GoFundMe campaigns for dogs — into a joke about Alvin, the dog Mr. Warnock famously walked in a campaign ad.
“My opponents were going around saying that I lied about Alvin the beagle being my dog,” he said. “Here is the truth. I’m going to give you the exclusive. Alvin was actually a paid actor. He needed the money after a Long Island congressman stole thousands of dollars from his GoFundMe page.”
Mr. Warnock’s routine — which also alluded to people mistaking him for another Black senator, Tim Scott, Republican of South Carolina — was much more restrained than Ms. Mace’s.
For Ms. Mace, no topic seemed off limits — not even Trump supporters’ storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election, an attack that led to multiple deaths.
“I know everyone thinks Republicans aren’t funny,” she said. “But if you get a bunch of us together, we can be a real riot.”