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


Threatening Johnson Now ‘Is Like Playing with a Loaded Gun in a Crowded Room’

March 28, 2024

If there’s one place no one’s putting all their eggs this Easter, it’s in the House GOP’s basket. Thanks to attention-seekers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), getting comfortable with the Republican majority is a luxury this speaker will never have. In the days since her selfish ploy to oust Mike Johnson (R-La.), even the media seems increasingly charitable about the predicament he’s in. “Mike Johnson’s Job Is Impossible,” a sympathetic headline from Business Insider read. But what can he do about it? “The short answer,” author Madison Hall wrote, “not much.”

It’s not exactly a “fruitful work environment for Johnson,” Hall pointed out, when he’s tasked with “leading and fundraising for the increasingly dysfunctional House of Representatives.” What was once a thin margin for the GOP majority is almost non-existent now, Congressman Ron Estes (R-Kan.) lamented. “And so, Speaker Johnson’s been dealt a tough hand. You know,” he told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, “when he was elected speaker, the problems didn’t magically go away. He still had to work to address some of these issues out there. And most recently, he’s been trying to struggle through … appropriations for fiscal year 2024. And that’s now behind him. … And we’ve got to focus on: What do we do moving forward?”

But moving forward was difficult enough without rogue members holding Johnson’s job hostage. “This is like playing with a loaded gun in a crowded room,” Perkins said. “I mean, with such slim majorities, you could actually — for the first time in the history of Congress — Republicans could lose control of Congress mid-session if they vacate the chair and the Democrats [get a few] Republicans [to go along] with them.”

Like a lot of conservatives, Estes isn’t sure what Greene is hoping to accomplish. “I haven’t talked to Marjorie about what her thought process was in doing that. I mean, obviously, there’s a lot of issues that that we need to address … [including] U.S. border security, addressing support for Ukraine, for Israel, for Taiwan.” Already, he explained, there are “mixed belief[s] and preferences amongst the Republicans, as well as amongst the Democrats, in both the House and the Senate. And those are the issues now that we’ve got to pivot to while we’re starting to work on the 2025 appropriations process, and hopefully we’ll have calmer heads to move forward.”

No matter what happens, Greene says, she is “not going to be responsible for [Democratic Minority Leader] Hakeem Jeffries being speaker of the House.” She blames the Republicans leaving early (like Reps. Ken Buck, Kevin McCarthy, and Mike Gallagher) who the Georgian claims “don’t have the intestinal fortitude to handle the real fight and the responsibility that comes with leadership…”

Obviously, people are frustrated by the $1.2 trillion dollar spending package, Johnson’s supporters admit. Perkins, who openly tells viewers that he and Mike are close, said if he were in Congress, “I would have voted against it. In fact, I told the speaker I was opposed to it because it had some bad stuff in it — a lot of bad stuff in it,” he reiterated. But as Estes pointed out, the framework of those six bills was already in place when he came in. “He had very little room to work with.”

And what most Americans don’t realize, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) told Tony Wednesday, is that these same hardline conservatives who wanted to shut down the government, wouldn’t commit to opening it back up again. In other words, the leadership’s job was, as Hall wrote, impossible. “[Our options] were very limited, unfortunately,” Scalise insisted. “And part of it starts with only a one-seat majority in the House. There are some of our members that weren’t going to support anything, no matter what you put [in front of them]. We wanted to put some border security measures there, and there were some members that weren’t even going to vote for that. And so, the other side knows that, and it weakens the negotiating position.”

While it wouldn’t have been all that painful to turn some lights off in Washington temporarily, “let’s be clear about a shutdown,” Scalise emphasized. “A shutdown doesn’t end Joe Biden’s border policy. The president, during a shutdown, gets to decide what gets funded and what doesn’t. That’s not a law I like. … During a shutdown, everything gets funded at current levels, except the things the president of the United States deems nonessential. Well, guess what this president is going to deem essential and non-essential? It’s not going to be the things you and I agree with. So that’s one of the challenges that you face, is that if you get a shutdown, Joe Biden’s making the decisions over what gets funded and what doesn’t.”

If conservatives thought this compromise was bad, imagine the White House taking an ax to defense spending or refusing to process illegal immigrants or injecting more agencies with radical pro-abortion, pro-trans programs. So frankly, it’s not as easy as people think. For Johnson, it was “really kind of a choice between bad and ugly,” Perkins agreed.

For now, there’s one thing every Republican should agree on, Estes pointed out, and that’s moving forward. “We want to [take] some positive [steps] and chang[e] some of the bad habits that Washington has been in for decades now. And that’s the focus that we should be putting our effort into, and [we] want to continue down that route.”

At the end of the day, Scalise reminded everyone, “the real answer is in November … if we really want to stop this madness.” Until then, the GOP needs to find a way to get along — or get out of the way.

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