Dec 13, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House Freedom Caucus compares Mike Johnson to John Boehner

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

House Freedom Caucus members are slamming Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-La.) handling of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), likening him to former Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in a list of internal talking points obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: While members of the conservative group have said they understand Johnson is still finding his footing in his new role, they have been increasingly vocal in their criticisms of his leadership on key issues.

Zoom in: The memo calls this year's NDAA "an utter disaster for House Republicans and a massive unforced error from leadership," arguing it was a deal struck behind closed doors, side-skirts regular order and takes aim at the bill's extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — which has sparked a strong divide within the conference.

  • "This is an obvious play to end-run conservative objections and pass liberal 'woke' military policy with the help of House Democrats — a page ripped from the Boehner playbook," they wrote.

The other side: Johnson laid out the case for the NDAA during the House GOP conference meeting on Tuesday, laying out what he feels are conservative provisions they managed to negotiate into the must-pass legislation.

  • "This year's NDAA gets our military back on track, cutting out the progressive agendas plaguing our armed forces. The U.S. military will be made up of warfighters, not woke fighters," Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) tweeted.
  • "Speaker Johnson and committee leaders fought tooth and nail to refocus the Pentagon on core national defense priorities and away from the Biden Administration's social experiments and climate agenda that in recent years have decimated our military's recruitment, morale, and readiness," Johnson's office told Axios in a statement.
  • "This year's NDAA is over 2,000 pages shorter than last year's, reins in taxpayer-funded censorship of conservative media, bans CRT in the military and its schools, hollows out Biden's DEI bureaucracy at the Pentagon, and protects the rights of military parents in their children's education."

The big picture: Top lawmakers have said they are confident that the bill will ultimately pass, but the honeymoon period with conservative hardliners appears to be over for Johnson.

  • Conservatives have said there are no current plans to attempt to oust Johnson from his gavel, but they are ramping up the pressure on the Louisiana Republican.
  • House Republicans face a razor-thin majority, which has shrunk with the ouster of former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), the pending exit of McCarthy at the end of the year and Rep. Bill Johnson leaving Congress before the end of his term.
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