May 6, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Mike Johnson signals House power play in 2025

This is Mike Johnson

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Ahead of a potential motion to vacate vote this week, Speaker Mike Johnson is tipping his hand for how he or a successor should rebuild the power of the House speakership.

Why it matters: Johnson told donors Sunday night in D.C. that the House GOP should consider rules changes next Congress to ensure a majority of the GOP gets its way.

  • Johnson's comments to donors were first reported by Punchbowl News.

Zoom in: Restoring rules that reflect the majority of the majority would affect the speakership in two primary ways.

1) It would fix the crippled House Rules Committee.

  • Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy's appointment of hardliners like Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Chip Roy (R-Texas) has effectively lost the GOP's majority on the committee that controls what legislation reaches the House floor.
  • On must-pass legislation, the speaker has to skip the committee and instead work with Democrats to pass votes with a 2/3 majority.
  • Democrats "effectively have been governing as if we were in the majority," Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told "60 Minutes" on Sunday.

2) It would protect the speakership, by not letting a motion to vacate be called by a single member.

Between the lines: Conservatives are furious about talks of changes to the rules, arguing they are in place to keep leaders accountable.

  • But one senior lawmaker noted that McCarthy's decision to change the rules left Johnson with little leverage — such as "chairmanships and gavels and fancy offices" to placate his critics after he took over the gavel.

Another senior lawmaker who is in favor of changing the rules, particularly the motion to vacate threshold, noted the difficulties of doing so mid-Congress with a razor-thin majority.

  • The GOP lawmaker said the rules changes at the start of the Congress under McCarthy were a mistake. "Because you can't undo all that if they turn out to be problems for the whole conference. You cannot undo them."

The bottom line: The crippled speakership has forced Johnson to violate the same majority of the majority principle he told donors about restoring, which used to be known as the Hastert Rule.

  • A majority of the House GOP voted against Ukraine aid last month, but it passed easily thanks to Democrats.
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