‘Trust Us’ As We Lead You Off A Cliff

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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 7: U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol November 7, 2023 in Washington, DC. Republican members of Congress are ... WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 7: U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) arrives for a House Republican Conference meeting at the U.S. Capitol November 7, 2023 in Washington, DC. Republican members of Congress are gathering to discuss the possibility of a budget continuing resolution as the November 17 government shutdown deadline looms. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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Since House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) first emerged on the national scene late on a Tuesday night two weeks ago, he’s given the unprecedentedly dysfunctional House Republican caucus a green screen to project its faux unity and claims of functionality upon.

I was monitoring the Republican conference meeting solo to give our intrepid (and tired) reporters Kate Riga and Emine Yücel a break two Tuesdays ago. The group was meeting to vote on their second speaker nominee of the day. Johnson was ultimately selected as the next guy to get his time in the House GOP barrel, new and affable enough not to piss too many people off yet.

He then won the majority of votes in the room when he immediately forced his colleagues to do a behind-closed-doors roll call on his potential speakership.

With 20-plus members absent from the meeting — and no clear indication whether those absent would actually support Johnson on the House floor — House Republicans were all but popping champagne moments after the secret roll call. Members flung wide the conference meeting doors to welcome the press into the room and to brag that they were finally “ready to govern” after taking almost a month to accomplish the most basic duty of governing as the majority.

While Johnson did ultimately get the votes the next day to be elected speaker, that Tuesday night forced projection of togetherness was as pellucidly a charade then as it is now.

Today, Johnson held a press conference asking the public to “trust us” as he offered scant details about his supposed plan — that’s unlikely to pass the Senate — to keep the government from shutting down in 11 days.

“I’m not going to tell you when we will bring it to the floor, but it will be in time, how about that? Trust us: We’re working through the process in a way that I think that people will be proud of,” Johnson told reporters, adding that “many options … are on the table and we’ll be revealing what our plan is in short order.”

He’s likely alluding to a strategy he’s been suggesting for the past week, which involves funding the government incrementally. The Senate, which has already approved three bipartisan spending bills, is unlikely to jump on Johnson’s messy grenade, putting him in the same position that doomed Kevin McCarthy’s speakership: work with the Senate and risk angering the far-right flank or appease the hardliners and shut down the government. Until Johnson faces that impending reality, he’s nothing more than a projection of unity at the helm of a circus caucus.

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