The Johnson Détente

There are several factors working in Mike Johnson’s favor.
There are several factors working in Mike Johnson’s favor. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
January 24, 2024

Despite their griping about Mike Johnson on Newsmax or Fox News, and the Democratic rubbernecking surrounding the ongoing G.O.P. civil war, there appears to be a sort of dawning recognition among Republicans on Capitol Hill that the freshman speaker isn’t going anywhere—at least not for the next several months. Sure, his decision to delay a government shutdown infuriated Freedom Caucus hardliners, especially since the stopgap bill required Democratic support. And yes, hardliners still possess the motion-to-vacate power—a parliamentary weapon of mass destruction that allows any single member to initiate a vote of no confidence. 

But as the dust has settled over last week’s budget fight, my congressional sources on the right are quietly signaling a grudging appreciation for Johnson’s predicament, and their own. It’s not just that they don’t want to go through another speaker election and a period where no one can do business, although that is certainly a key factor keeping everyone from the brink. It’s also that, at the moment, no one has a good rationale for nuking the speaker (or, at least, one that they can sell to the public), and no one can summon the political clout to make the motion-to-vacate option viable. “My take,” said one senior G.O.P. aide, “is that nobody wants this.”