Johnson Gets the McCarthy Treatment

On Wednesday, when Speaker Mike Johnson walked his conference through the contours of his deal with Chuck Schumer, his right flank revolted.
On Wednesday, when Speaker Mike Johnson walked his conference through the contours of his deal with Chuck Schumer, his right flank revolted. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
January 10, 2024

Way back in 2018, long before his out-of-nowhere ascent to House speaker, Mike Johnson was just another far-right backbencher, charged by the House Republican Conference with assembling a list of the “7 Core Principles of Conservatism”: individual freedom, limited government, fiscal responsibility, the rule of law, and (also unfashionably these days) free trade. And by the standards of 2018, the framework for the spending bill that Johnson tentatively struck this week with Chuck Schumer might be considered a minor win: It would hold overall spending flat relative to the last deal Schumer struck with Kevin McCarthy, claw back $10 billion from Democrats’ $80 billion infusion into the I.R.S., and rescind $6.1 billion in Covid-related spending—a $1.59 trillion bill that, at the very least, would “move the process forward.” 

While incremental, his wins were definitionally conservative. But, as one plugged-in Republican close to the House’s conservative wing told me, it is “not enough for the Freedom Caucus.” Alas, this is 2024, and the number of right-wing grievances has snowballed since Johnson published his “7 Core Principles”: trillions of dollars for Covid relief, authorized by Trump and then Biden; the American Rescue Plan; the Inflation Reduction Act; and finally and most egregiously, the aforementioned deal then-Speaker McCarthy struck with Democrats that largely maintains historically high levels of spending.