House Republicans got rid of one speaker (with Democratic help) and then ran through most of their available candidates before successfully replacing him. They probably don’t want to do that again, at least until the memory fades a little, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop being fractured, ego-driven monsters whose go-to strategy is legislative vandalism. All of which is to say, current Speaker Mike Johnson came in with a warm glow of giddy Republican approval around him, but he’s already taking some pretty harsh criticism.
“He continues to play games,” Rep. Max Miller told Politico. “We are talking about a man [who] 30 days ago said that he was an anti-CR guy. We are talking about a man 30 days ago that was anti-Ukraine funding. ... It shows me he was never really morally convicted in his positions to begin with.”
Miller was an ally of ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy, so he may not have been inclined to give Johnson as much benefit of the doubt as some. But going on the record to call a speaker from your own party a “joke” whose strategic decisions and shifting positions have been “disgusting,” “fucking dumb,” and “a slap in the face to every Jew” is an unusual move. It suggests that Miller isn’t worried about retaliation.
Rep. Andy Biggs was one of the eight Republicans who voted to boot McCarthy. He is, like Johnson, on the far right of the House Republican conference. Talking to Politico, he rated Johnson in grade-school report card terms as “needing improvement” and “unsatisfactory results.”
Rep. Chip Roy, also on the far right, rated Johnson’s performance as “plummeting.”
Johnson continues to have allies, and many on the far right of House Republicans continue to see him as one of their own. There’s no talk (yet) of replacing him, and he’s shoring himself up through his continuing support for impeaching President Joe Biden. But it’s significant that the biggest thing Johnson did to anger his fellow Republicans is … try to keep the government open for a few more months. The Freedom Caucus has grudgingly conceded they need to go along with the basic effort to keep the government from shutting down, but that doesn’t mean they’re happy about it, or with the guy who got them here.
Right now, Johnson is trying to walk the line between extreme enough to keep the Freedom Caucus and its ilk happy but not so overtly extreme that he completely blows up Republican chances next November. He’s getting away with it, but like every other recent Republican speaker, it’s clear that he’s not leading his party so much as trying to thread one needle after another without stumbling into a full-on rebellion. And many members of his party continue on unchanged by the experience of McCarthy’s ouster and the ensuing chaos. Their egos and determination to get attention by causing trouble will never take a rest.Campaign Action