Nov 15, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Mike Johnson's holiday report card

Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), a hardline conservative, furiously challenged his colleagues Wednesday to present "one material, meaningful, significant thing the Republican majority has done" that he can take back to his constituents.

Why it matters: House Republicans' decision to head home early for Thanksgiving recess will give Washington ample time to reflect on Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-La.) three weeks in office, which have been haunted by the same bitter GOP divisions that felled his predecessor.

Driving the news: Johnson successfully punted the next government shutdown deadline into early 2024 — but, like former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), infuriated conservatives in the process by relying heavily on Democratic votes.

  • In retaliation, 19 GOP hardliners rebelled to defeat a procedural vote on the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations bill — prompting Johnson to cancel remaining votes and send everyone home.
  • It's a strange predicament to be in for a MAGA-aligned Republican who describes himself as an "arch conservative," but one that perfectly captures the consistently ungovernable nature of the GOP conference.

The big picture: Johnson's first week was undoubtedly a successful one, as his election fueled a surge in GOP fundraising and the House passed an Israel aid package paired with cuts to IRS funding.

  • Since then, GOP leadership has been forced to pull three votes on appropriations bills due to threats from both the moderate and conservative wings of the party.
  • There's been no floor action on a bill funding the Department of Agriculture and the FDA, after moderates tanked a vote in September over language restricting access to abortion pills.
  • The Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill also appears to be in limbo, with Johnson opting to regroup after Thanksgiving rather than risk another embarrassing defeat on the House floor.

What they're saying: After losing 95 Republicans on Tuesday's vote to keep the government funded, Johnson defended his leadership and insisted that his novel "two-step" stopgap approach would be a victory for conservatives.

  • "I've been at the job less than three weeks, right?" he said. "I can't turn an aircraft carrier overnight."
  • "It should be obvious to anyone who is watching that House Republicans are unable to govern on their own, period, full stop," House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) countered.

What to watch: There are just 21 legislative days until the next government funding deadline on Jan. 19, and Johnson — who has vowed not to pass another short-term spending bill — is quickly burning political capital.

The bottom line: The lingering scars from the GOP's speaker vacancy have afforded Johnson additional job security, but his honeymoon period has otherwise come to a screeching halt.

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