WASHINGTON (AP) — By most reports, Speaker Michael Johnson He inherited a Republican House majority in disarray after the surprise ouster of his predecessor last month.
But as Johnson, Republican of Los Angeles, tries to rebuild that slim majority, he is quickly facing the same thing Far-right facts and divisions Which Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California He was unable to tame. This would disrupt the party’s agenda, shelve priorities, and leave uncomfortable questions about any leader’s ability to govern.
Capitol Hill returned to new scenes of political chaos last week as tensions rose. to Republican Senator He challenged the head of the truck drivers union to a brawl, one of several outbursts in which lawmakers participated, and New speaker, untested He was forced to abandon his party schedule and send everyone home early for Thanksgiving.
“This place is like a pressure cooker,” Johnson lamented. He said it was hoped people would “calm down”.
But the outlook for the future does not look better. House Republicans who pledged to do so Cut federal spendinginterrogation of the president Joe Biden And ending a long series of democratic policies that achieved only gradual progress in their priorities.
Although McCarthy struck a surprise Debt deal With Biden earlier this year setting a course for Reduce the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion Over the next decade, Conservative victory existed mainly on paper.
Republicans have failed to pass all the legislation needed to put all of these cuts into law, and they have pulled some bills from the House floor. However, centrist conservatives said the measures went further, with the hard-right faction demanding deeper cuts to government programmes.
As the days before a potential government shutdown dwindled, Congress had no choice but to do so Pass another short-term measure Which keeps federal spending on autopilot for a few more months. This avoids a federal shutdown for now, but sets up the next showdown in January.
“We didn’t do anything!” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, thundered, attacking his colleagues in a lengthy speech as the lawmaker fled for the exits.
Conservatives took particular umbrage with the stopgap spending bill, called the continuing resolution, which kept spending at levels agreed upon last year, when Democrats had full control of Congress and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was the speaker. .
“When are we going to do what we said we were going to do?” Roy protested. “When are we going to act like a Republican majority and start fighting?”
It’s the same complaint that led the hard-right bloc to oust McCarthy in October, the first impeachment of a president in US history, and it will threaten Johnson’s leadership.
The GOP divide over spending highlights the disconnect between Republican ideals of reducing the size and scope of government and the reality of cuts to programs and services close to home.
Rep. Nick Lalotta, R-N.Y., was one of the most centrist conservatives to vote against a procedural move on legislation to fund the Justice Department, among other agencies, because he said law enforcement cuts would hurt public safety agencies.
“My voters don’t want me to vote for that,” he said.
Republicans are also angry that they are enduring countless midnight voting sessions, weighing hundreds of amendments — voting to cut the Biden administration’s payroll to $1, trying to end “woke” policies on diversity and inclusion — to legislative packages that ultimately don’t deliver. To any result.
After 10 months of majority, the strategy has not worked, Lalota said. “My constituents want us to reduce our production, but they want us to reduce in the right areas,” he said.
What further complicates the work of Congress is the presence of a world at war.
Biden has asked Congress Nearly $106 billion supplemental spending package Providing military and governmental aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia, supporting Israel in the war with Hamas and providing relief to the Palestinians in Gaza. The package carries other priorities, including strengthening border security between the United States and Mexico, which will be a top priority when enforcing returns.
On the eve of the vote, Johnson laid out his strategy for this stopgap measure, relying on a proposal by the hard-right Freedom Caucus to split the spending bill into two parts, with funding expiring on January 19 for some agencies and then February. .2 for others.
But conservatives criticized the plan, and caucus members said most would oppose it. Johnson rejected their suggestion to at least attach the file Aid package for Israel approved by the House of Representatives As a means of forcing the Senate to act.
Members of the hard right rolled their eyes at Johnson’s strategy. But they said they wanted to give the new speaker the grace to find his way.
“The new speaker is respected. He is admired and trusted,” said Rep. Bob Good, Republican of Virginia. “You know he’s a human being. “He’s not perfect, like all of us.”
Republicans are well aware that their slim House majority is increasingly at risk heading into the 2024 election season if they cannot deliver on their promises to voters. Many lawmakers in both parties are choosing to retire rather than continue fighting the same battles.
Johnson defended his three weeks on the job, saying: “I can’t run an aircraft carrier overnight.” He insisted he was in a “completely different situation” than McCarthy faced.
“We have some great plans,” he told reporters at a press conference.
But Republican Rep. Garrett Graves of Louisiana, a major McCarthy ally, said the idea that “by electing a new president, you’re suddenly going to have all these new options that I think are now being realized, that’s not realistic.”
“I think the road will continue to be bumpy moving forward,” he added.
After House Democrats provided the votes to help Johnson avoid a federal shutdown, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, whose party also provided the votes to help McCarthy, said he was working to establish a good relationship with the new House speaker.
Asked if he had any advice for Johnson, Jeffries said: “Good luck.”