Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Exit Stage Mike: It’s time for Speaker Johnson to step aside 

Samantha Parker By Samantha Parker May29,2024

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is expected to introduce his Ukraine funding proposal this week, an act that will only further inflame his former allies’ growing efforts to oust him from power. The MAGA movement is ready to cast Johnson aside, and there isn’t much the increasingly isolated Speaker can do about it. 

Johnson’s Speakership turns six months old next week, and passing a bipartisan Ukraine funding deal at the same time would provide a major boost to his battered legacy. But doing the right thing now means subjecting the country to yet another humiliating, drawn-out succession battle as the MAGA movement eats a few more of its own. The American people deserve better than the circus to come. 

Johnson can try to resist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) effort to boot him from the job, but he can’t hold back the tide forever. Instead, Johnson should do right by the American people, claim his defining victory on Ukraine and voluntarily step down. 

It may take some time for Johnson to get there, though; on Tuesday the Speaker angrily shot down questions about stepping aside. “I am not resigning,” Johnson told reporters. “It’s, in my view, an absurd notion that sound would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs.” 

Trying and failing. Just 38 percent of Republican insiders view Johnson as an effective Speaker. Last month long-time North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry openly questioned Johnson’s fitness for the job. Even Johnson allies seem wary of the Speaker’s recent string of high-profile legislative fumbles. The daily Capitol Hill drama has devastated Republican morale at a time when the party is trying desperately to excite the base. It’s easy to see why tensions are bubbling over. 

Johnson may be in an even more imperiled position than his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy lost his Speakership after becoming the target of MAGA ire for his willingness to work with Democrats. Johnson’s problem is more fundamental. MAGA-aligned or not, House Republicans don’t believe Johnson has the skills for the job. Johnson clearly isn’t the star quarterback his colleagues expected. 

Meanwhile, Johnson is trying to conduct business as usual despite a restive GOP conference and a vote margin even narrower than McCarthy’s. Former Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) left Congress a month ago. Now a bubbling House Ethics Committee investigation into Rep. Troy Nehls’s (R-Texas) campaign finances may threaten his time in office. The more the House GOP’s margin shrinks, the longer and more bitter any succession battle will become. Eventually, Johnson will lead an inoperable majority in name only. 

Even if Johnson manages to hang on another two or three months, it’s clear the Ukraine vote will mark the final spending of what little political capital the Speaker has left with his bare-majority caucus. That’s been clear to anyone watching Johnson’s growing tally of failed votes, like last week’s spectacular implosion on FISA reauthorization or February’s botched effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. 

When Johnson confessed on Tuesday that he found efforts to oust him “absurd,” it revealed how little the Speaker understands what his party has become. Johnson still imagines a Republican Party unified by a coherent ideology and operating, more or less, under a guiding set of principles. The MAGA movement has shredded all that. For the Freedom Caucus members now lining up to vote against him, ousting a disloyal Speaker is their job. 

“We’re screwed,” one Republican lawmaker told Axios after Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie formally called on Johnson to resign. Johnson now has to decide whether he will contribute to, and ultimately worsen, House dysfunction by forcing a fight he is almost certain to lose. That can’t be the image of America that our political leaders project to our people or our allies abroad. 

Johnson has an opportunity that was never afforded to his predecessor: the chance to walk away after a major bipartisan policy victory. More importantly, it would be a reminder to the American electorate that our leaders are prepared to step aside when it’s clear they can no longer be effective in the job.  

Whatever self-destruction the House Republicans have planned, Johnson should follow the example of his predecessor McCarthy and play no role in it. Leaving the Speakership after stewarding critical financial support to Ukraine allows Johnson to preserve at least a semblance of his dignity. For a Republican Speaker in the MAGA era, that’s a pretty good deal. 

Max Burns is a veteran Democratic strategist and founder of Third Degree Strategies. 

Samantha Parker

By Samantha Parker

Samantha is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the truth behind the headlines. With years of experience in investigative reporting, she has covered a wide range of topics including politics, crime, and entertainment. Her in-depth analysis and commitment to factual accuracy make her a respected voice in the field of journalism.

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2 thoughts on “Exit Stage Mike: It’s time for Speaker Johnson to step aside ”
  1. It’s clear that Speaker Johnson’s leadership is in jeopardy. The longer he clings to power, the more damage he does. It’s time for him to gracefully step aside and allow a new leader to take charge.

  2. Speaker Johnson needs to acknowledge the reality of his situation and the lack of support within his own party. It’s time for him to gracefully step aside and prioritize the interests of the American people. The longer he resists, the more tumultuous the situation will become, tarnishing both his reputation and causing further division within the GOP.

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