Tuesday was an unusually ugly day for House Republicans, even by recent standards: Rep. Tim Burchett accused former speaker Kevin McCarthy of deliberately elbowing him in the kidneys; Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and James Comer called their fellow members a “pussy” and a “Smurf,” respectively; and nearly half of the caucus voted against Speaker Mike Johnson’s status quo-maintaining continuing resolution because his “laddered C.R.”—a newly invented spending approach that keeps different parts of the government open across multiple deadlines on a rolling basis—didn’t deliver the immediate spending cuts and border security that right-wingers demanded. In the end, Johnson had to rely on 209 Democrats to pass the bill.
So much for Johnson’s “honeymoon” period, which lasted all of two weeks. On Wednesday, a coalition of 19 Republican members—including hardliners Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert, Dan Bishop, and Chip Roy—ganged up to tank a simple vote that would have started debate on a relatively anodyne appropriations bill. This was, I’m told, essentially a protest vote against Johnson for forcing through a clean C.R. that advanced no conservative agenda items, that won the endorsements of Hakeem Jeffries and Chuck Schumer; that was, as TPUSA’s Charlie Kirk put it, “unacceptable.” Steve Bannon reposted Kirk’s tweet on Truth Social, adding: “Worse Than Unacceptable…Abject Surrender Without Any Coherent Plan.”
More ominously, the protest vote was clearly a shot across the bow: Two days earlier, Gaetz warned on CNN that Johnson could face a “similar fate” as his predecessor if Johnson doesn’t manage to break up the budget into “single-subject” spending bills. But that’s the direction that Johnson is now taking his caucus, even if it’s through a confusing, “gimmicky” strategy to appease Capitol Hill’s multiple warring factions. Alas, Johnson has only bought himself so much time before the bill comes due at the end of January, and the real five-way fight between him, G.O.P. hardliners, the rest of the House, the Senate, and the White House will get underway.