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(Conservative Playbook)—There have been high hopes for the GOP-led House of Representatives ever since Kevin McCarthy was ousted and Mike Johnson promoted to Speaker of the House. Johnson is a Christian and conservative, and some said he was a fighter as well.
That last label has been debated but the debate may be over. He recently declared that he would not use the risk shutting down the government if the border crisis wasn’t addressed. That’s not what a fighter would do, and while some would say it’s all some sort of 4D chess or something, I’m not seeing it. The most important power the House has is over the purse and if a Speaker is unwilling to use that power to solve the most pressing crisis this nation currently faces, then his chess moves are futile.
Here’s the clip in question:
As some in the House GOP threaten to halt government funding until President Biden signs their border security proposals into law, @SpeakerJohnson tells @margbrennan the government won't shut down – but his members "understand this is a critical issue." Tune in Sunday for more. pic.twitter.com/94Rf8Pu6nS
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 5, 2024
Johnson’s response was not impressive. He had an opportunity to play off Representative Chip Roy’s threat and instead he diffused it for the “Face the Nation” audience.
Bonchie over at Red State took a more nuanced approach to Johnson’s strategy:
Reactions to this will likely vary. On the one hand, how effective would a government shutdown over the border even be? It is clear that Democrats do not fear any political backlash associated with the issue. Instead, they would likely just use it as messaging fodder in an election year, and perhaps with some success.
On the other hand, some would question what the point of electing Republicans to office is if they aren’t going to use all the leverage they’ve got. Part of politics is being willing to stand up for what’s right even if there is a risk it might not work. Would a shutdown do more harm than good to Republicans? I honestly don’t know, and I don’t think anybody truly does. Is that an excuse to not make a stand, though?
I suppose it’s debatable, and while it may seem like I’m making a definitive judgment, I’m not. I can see both sides of the argument. Much in life boils down to risk and reward. Can Democrats even be swayed in this environment by applying pressure? Or is it better to have a strategy solely focused on winning more power in 2024 to neutralize Democrat input? Again, it’s a fair question that fair people can come to different conclusions on.
Still, this latest move from Johnson does bring us back to the elephant in the room, which is what exactly was gained by the fight to oust Kevin McCarthy as Speaker? Has there been a distinct shift in governance? I would say, not really. We still ended up with a continuing resolution, and now we are getting the same strategy regarding avoiding a shutdown at all costs. Those were the two major issues that got McCarthy booted.
To reiterate, this article is not a criticism of Johnson. I like him as a person (far more than McCarthy), and I think he’s doing what he can with what he’s got to work with, which is an extremely slim majority. I don’t know if I agree with all his decisions, but I’m not suggesting it was a mistake to make him Speaker.
While Bonchie seems to be giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt, I will not. Call me naive but I see this as a no-brainer. The American people understand that there’s a crisis and they want it solved. As bad as the GOP is at optics, surely they can position a move to fix the border as a positive reason to play hardball with a government shutdown.
Is Johnson better than McCarthy? Yes. But being better and ACTING better are two different things. Thus far I’ve seen nothing done by Johnson that wouldn’t have been done by McCarthy.
Like Bonchie, I’m not going to pass judgment from a clip. But if the GOP caves to fund the government without major action taken to secure the border, than I’ll be far more critical of Johnson’s short tenure with the gavel.