Signs That Johnson’s About To Give Up The Act

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WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WEST VIRGINIA - MARCH 13: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) participates in a discussion at the Greenbrier Hotel on March 13, 2024 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Hous... WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, WEST VIRGINIA - MARCH 13: U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) participates in a discussion at the Greenbrier Hotel on March 13, 2024 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. House Republicans are holding their “2024 House Republican Issues Conference,” also known as the annual House GOP retreat, in West Virginia from March 13 – March 15. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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When House Republicans handed a 2020 election denier the gavel after ousting former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), there were strong indications the speakership might function as nothing more than a Donald Trump plaything for the foreseeable future.

But then there were some initial signs that Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) might have a spine: He has bucked his party’s right flank and worked with Democrats repeatedly to pass continuing resolutions to keep the government functioning.

Now, as he struggles to get his thin majority enough in line to pass standard budget bills and crucial aid to Ukraine, and as he faces down threats against his job from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Trump’s puppet strings begin to show.

If he hadn’t yet resigned himself to finish out his tenure by legislating as little as possible in order to avoid working with Democrats, this afternoon might’ve demoralized him enough to embrace his fate.

House Republicans once again revolted against the speaker today and tanked a procedural vote that would’ve moved forward the reauthorization of the FISA surveillance program. The bill included reforms to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to appease critics, Republicans and Democrats alike, who say the program has violated the civil liberties of Americans. The legislation was supported by Johnson, the Biden administration, and many other Republicans who have been pushing for reforms and who see some form of FISA reauthorization as critical for intelligence gathering and fighting terrorism.

The bill even had the support of right-wingers like Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) who have long fought against FISA. However, some hardliners in the Republican conference have argued the changes didn’t go far enough to rehabilitate the program, which was first authorized in 2008.

Trump seemed to agree.


Despite the fact that this is incorrect — a former adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign was surveilled as part of the FBI’s Russia investigation, but under a different section of FISA from the one being voted on today — it was all 19 Republicans needed to hear in order to tank the advancement of the Johnson-backed bill for a third time this Congress. (Johnson had hoped to entice the right-flank by attaching a resolution to the bill that would’ve condemned Biden’s border policies, but that all but ensured no Democrats would vote for the measure.)

As we look toward fights on government funding and Ukraine aid, the details of today’s defeated legislation matter less than how it came to be defeated: Trump, who currently holds no elected office, will always trump the authority of the speaker in today’s Republican Party. And as he faces a motion-to-vacate threat from Greene, it seems Johnson is starting to accept that.

Just before his colleagues’ revolt, CNN reported that the speaker plans to visit Trump in Mar-a-Lago on Friday where he will stand side-by-side with the 2024 candidate for a “joint press conference” on “election integrity” — signaling he may soon become even more deeply immersed in Trump’s falsehoods, and take his true place as Trump puppet.

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