May 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Mike Johnson fires back at MTG: “I’m the most conservative” speaker

(Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) defended his conservative record ahead of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-Ga.) expected ouster attempt, calling it an "unhelpful distraction" during an exclusive interview with Axios.

Why it matters: The Louisiana Republican argued that the motion to vacate is counterproductive to their goals, noting the difficulties of the GOP's razor-thin majority.

  • "It does not serve our party's interests for certain. I mean, our efforts are 24-hours a day, seven days a week to keep and grow the majority, win back the Senate and win back the White House."
  • "And so the motion to vacate does not offer a recipe for conservative policy, it's a recipe for chaos.

The intrigue: Johnson's right-wing critics continue to fume over some of his policy decisions, including his decision to put Ukraine aid on the floor without border language attached.

  • But Johnson asserted he is fighting for conservative wins and is working daily to mend relationships and unify the conference.
  • "I'm the most conservative member who has ever held the gavel as speaker, but the reality of our numbers is our challenge," he said.

The big picture: Johnson argued some within his conference need to face the realities of how many concessions they can yield with a Democratic-controlled Senate and White House.

  • "Some of my colleagues want us to throw Hail Mary passes on every play of the game and that's not a game winning strategy when you have such a tiny majority," he said.
  • "What you do every single day is you work for incremental gains on the field as we used to say in football, it's three yards and a cloud of dust, you just move the ball, get the next first down, put points on the board and keep moving forward."

Between the lines: Greene's decision to move on the motion to vacate has been met with pushback from the majority of her conference and former President Trump.

  • Greene has denied that she is defying Trump with her actions, and Johnson said it isn't clear why the Georgia Republican is forging forward with forcing a vote.
  • "I'm not sure what goes into Marjorie's analysis, but I will tell you that I work very closely with President Trump. I'll be at Mar-a-Lago tomorrow and Saturday for his big donor retreat," Johnson said.

The big picture: Greene, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) have alleged Democrats' vow to save Johnson's gavel creates a "uniparty," accusing the speaker of being owned by the other party.

  • Johnson denies accusations he is sharing the speakership with Democrats.
  • "No [this won't be a bipartisan speakership], look, speaker of the House is a challenging position and Newt Gingrich posted an op-ed this week said Johnson has the toughest speakership since the Civil War," he said pointing to the one-vote margin.
  • "It requires every single member in our party to work in tandem every single day. ... I think the country desperately needs a functioning Congress right now. "
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