". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Johnson: ‘We Don’t Have Time for the Circus Atmosphere in Congress’

May 7, 2024

It’s taken months, but even the mainstream media is sick of the speakership soap opera they’ve giddily keyed up since the start of last year. Enough already, MSNBC’s Michael Steele barked at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) after her latest vow to oust Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). “It won’t work,” the co-host of “The Weekend” argued, and it’s just more proof that the Georgia congresswoman doesn’t give a rip about her own party.

The irony, Steele (who’s no conservative) pointed out, is that Greene’s motion “doesn’t even meet her own standards for forcing legislation to the floor, because it isn’t supported by the majority of her Republican colleagues.” Not to mention that this persistent distraction is taking time away from the actual crises of the day. “The House of Representatives is a 435-seat body. When one of its members goes rogue and demands their way or the highway and works to sabotage efforts toward productivity and consensus, that member is bucking the way the founders designed Congress to work.”

Already, this session is on track to be the “least productive in modern history,” he added. And a big part of it, members from both parties agree, is that selfish GOPers are more interested in seeing their names in the news cycle than actually reaching across the aisle and getting things done.

Republican National Committee Chair Michael Whatley is the latest to urge Greene and her tiny army to stand down. “We need to flip the Senate, and we need to expand our majority in the House. We’re not going to do that if we’re not unified,” he told NBC News. “We need to make sure that all of the Republicans understand the gravity of this election cycle, and they do, and we need to make sure that we are on the same page as we’re moving forward,” Whatley insisted.

Even members of the House Freedom Caucus, who’ve been highly critical of the young speaker, think the time for petty grievances is over. “She’s not acting in the best interests of President Trump,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) argued Sunday. “I don’t think this is a good move six months before an election.” But then, he said, “she’s always been about herself primarily.”

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who’s been a mentor of Johnson’s since his early days in law school, took time out of his weekly Salem program to address the criticism his fellow Louisianan is getting. First of all, he asked to the conservatives backing Greene, “What’s going to be accomplished by vacating the chair? We went through this exercise, what, four months ago? … And the world’s in even more perilous conditions now.”

Even Greene has no idea who could possibly cobble enough votes together to become speaker, Perkins pointed out. When she was asked by The Washington Post about a successor, she said, “I’m not going to name names, but I think we have people that are capable,” which she defined as “anybody’s that’s willing to fight for our agenda, anyone that refuses to share the power with Hakeem Jeffries.”

“Stop the madness,” Perkins said. “We’ve come to a very dangerous place in our republic when simply talking with someone from the other political party disqualifies you [from leadership].” Look, he wanted people to know, “I spent time in office in Louisiana as an elected official. I thought the goal of government was to work for the people — not just take political pot shots at the other party.”

As someone who has a close relationship with Johnson, he said that he’s been inundated with calls and emails asking what’s going on with the speaker. “They hear these broad, sweeping statements about him being a RINO [or] about this [so-called] uni-party.” He reminds them what the media fails to: that Joe Biden is president of the United States, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has firm control of the Senate, and Mike Johnson has a two-vote margin of control in the House.

“That means he has to have all 218 Republicans pulling in the same direction, or it doesn’t work. No speaker’s ever faced the challenges confronting Mike Johnson,” Perkins argued. “So let’s be realistic.”

That doesn’t mean that some things couldn’t have been handled differently, he agreed. “But let me address some of the issues specifically, like the appropriations bill. Why didn’t Speaker Johnson just shut the government down rather than pass bills that contain priorities for the Left? You know what? That’s a fair question. And I even asked that one myself. Here’s the answer: The shutdown would have been a pep rally for conservatives for about two weeks, but it would have been like a short-lived, sugar-high — giving way to a melancholy reality.”

At some point, Perkins explained, the government would need to be reopened, because the essential personnel — military, border control, and other employees — would be working for IOUs. “The pressure to reopen the government would have been immense,” he predicted. “And [it’s] an established fact that there were not enough Republicans who would vote to reopen the government. So guess what? A deal with the Democrats would be required — a deal that would have required most likely additional funding for the Left’s priorities, and a relinquishing of the pro-life, pro-family policy riders that were preserved in the appropriations bill.”

Which, by the way, he pointed out, “one of the blatantly false claims that have been made even by Marjorie Taylor Greene is that the appropriations bill funded abortion. The Hyde Amendment was actually preserved in the negotiations, which keeps that from happening.”

But if Johnson is a legitimate conservative, why would Democrats offer to bail him out? In the FRC president’s mind, it’s “less about Democrats supporting Mike Johnson than it is refusing to allow one person, Marjorie Taylor Greene, to hold the entire House of Representatives hostage to her demands. That’s what this is about.”

In fact, when Perkins asked the speaker why Democrats would refuse to go along with Greene’s motion to oust him, Johnson admitted their support “surprised me.” On the latest edition of “This Week on the Hill,” he was candid. “I’ve not had conversations, certainly haven’t requested the assistance of anyone. But” he said, “I’m encouraged that there are grown-ups in the room who are in both parties who understand that these are very serious times. We don’t have time for the circus atmosphere of Congress. We have to get serious work done.”

When Kevin McCarthy was tossed out of the speaker’s chair, “Congress was closed for three weeks,” Johnson reminded everyone. “You can’t operate without a speaker. And the idea that we would want to go through that again is so dangerous. I mean, imagine China moving on Taiwan while the House is closed or one of these wars, [and] you can’t do anything.”

At the end of the day, Johnson has said, he can’t operate out of fear of losing his job. As for Marjorie Taylor Greene, “I don’t even say her name,” he told Perkins. “I try not to pay her much attention. The whole objective here is to get attention. And it’s a very unfortunate thing when the threshold was lowered on the motion to vacate, where any single member could bring the motion to remove a speaker at any time. It’s allowed for this absurdity.” And no matter what it takes, he vowed, “We won’t have the House held hostage. I think reasonable people want to move forward.”

Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.