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The Johnson Piñata

mike johnson
The dual disaster of Tuesday’s floor votes was emblematic of Speaker Mike Johnson’s lack of long-term strategic thinking—not just in terms of days, but perhaps in terms of hours, too. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Tina Nguyen
February 7, 2024

Everyone is blaming everyone for the dual debacles in the House yesterday: Speaker Mike Johnson, for pushing the impeachment of Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas when he didn’t have the votes, and then pushing another vote on Israel funding that likewise went down in flames; majority whip Tom Emmer for failing to anticipate the vote count; even majority leader Steve Scalise, who was away receiving chemotherapy treatment, somehow caught a bit of flak. Of course, my sources on the Hill were naturally irked by the three Republican members who killed the impeachment—Ken Buck, Tom McClintock, and Mike Gallagher, who had voted their principles in defiance of the party—as well as the 14 hardliners who stuck to their principles and voted against the Israel funding bill. (Each had their excuses, ranging from concerns about the border to the budget.) 

Republican leadership, however, seems to be receiving the brunt of the criticism—even with Scalise out. “It’s embarrassing,” a senior G.O.P. aide vented to me. “Those three guys, it’s their job to get the votes and make sure the votes are there prior to putting anything on the floor. Steve Scalise controls the floor. Tom Emmer is supposed to count the votes. Mike Johnson makes the ultimate decision. And all three are failing over and over and over again.”