Mike Johnson’s Troubles Resurface in Republican Legislative Failures


Americans have witnessed what many have described as a chaotic year of politics. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted in a controversial and historic vote, but was not replaced for three weeks in a messy and embarrassing episode for Republicans. This deadlock eventually came to an end with the narrow election of Mike Johnson, a representative from Louisiana, who has been criticized by many for allegedly aiding Republican attempts to overturn the election of President Joe Biden in the wake of the 2020 elections. 

Speaker Johnson faced many problems immediately after taking office, with a potential government shutdown looming only 22 days afterward and a Republican caucus fractured and bruised by the speaker election process. Nonetheless, despite a revolt from 93 Republicans against his proposed measure to avoid said shutdown, the bill was eventually passed with the help of House Democrats. However, in order to avoid a full-blown Republican abandonment of the bill, Johnson was forced to eliminate some key measures that President Biden had requested, including over $100 billion in aid for border security, Israel, and Ukraine, setting the stage for a more recent crisis.

Despite Johnson’s ability to overcome his initial struggles and establish a period of relative stability in the House of Representatives, it was short-lived. Last week, House Republicans failed to pass two measures that Johnson had made central to his speakership; the impeachment of the Secretary of the Department for Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, and a bill containing nearly $20 billion in aid for Israel. 

The first failure, Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment, was a central tenet of Johnson’s rejection of President Biden’s immigration and border policies. As Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Mayorkas was in charge of implementing policies many Republicans decried and oversaw what many Republicans called a swarm of migrants being freely let into the nation. In response to this, House Republicans charged Secretary Mayorkas with breaching the public trust and refusing to comply with the law, in an action criticized and condemned by countless legal experts, former representatives from across the political spectrum, and three bi-partisan former secretaries of the Department of Homeland Security. The Bill’s detractors, including some Republican representatives who would eventually vote against the impeachment, called it an unconstitutional abuse of power and a meaningless attempt to create chaos through a politically driven misuse of the impeachment clause. Eventually, three Republicans joined the united Democrats in voting against the impeachment. This chaotic voting process originally ended in a tie, broken only by a Democratic representative returning from a medical procedure in a wheelchair and hospital gown to vote nay

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Former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas.

In spite of this failure, Republicans tried again, this time successfully impeaching Secretary Mayorkas in a vote of 214 to 213. Despite this, an impeachment requires an additional two-thirds majority in the Democrat-controlled Congress, condemning the impeachment process to defeat. Regardless of another three defections in the second vote, Speaker Johnson managed to pull together the votes required to pass the measure. With this slim majority, Speaker Johnson is likely to face similar hurdles in passing further legislation over the course of his speakership. Furthermore, a special election to fill the seat of former Republican representative George Santos, who was expelled from the House last year, has complicated Speaker Johnson’s plans given the victory of democrat Tom Suozzi, narrowing his majority even more.

Another key tenet of Johnson’s tenure as Speaker of the House was aid to Israel and Ukraine, a tenet for which Johnson has been greatly criticized. The Republican bill containing $17.6 billion in aid solely for Israel failed, despite the support of 46 Democrats. Some argued that Johnson’s measure did not go far enough, instead conceding some extra funding to Democrats, still others insisted that the measure went too far in the spending cuts it required. Here, the “no-win scenario” many Republicans have described Johnson to be in can be seen. Johnson is said by many to be stuck in between a powerful group of far-right Republicans, who have the power to essentially fire him should they become unhappy with his performance as speaker, and mainstream centrist Republicans, who disagree with their far-right colleagues on many issues. 14 Republicans voted against this measure, almost all of whom came from the far-right wing, demonstrating Johnson’s struggles in maintaining control over his party and managing policy differences.

These two legislative failures have been called symbolic of the wider issues presenting themselves within the Republican party as far-right conservatives such as those in the Freedom Caucus become ever-more powerful and clash with their fellow Republicans on a variety of issues. As Mike Johnson’s speakership progresses, both his performance as speaker and his ability to remain as such will depend on his ability to balance these opposing forces. However, as many fear a repeat of the post-Kevin McCarthy removal disarray, Speaker Johnson may face increasing pressure to cave into the far right, which some fear will endanger the very functioning of American democracy.

Cover Image: Speaker of the House Mike Johnson addressing the Congress.

Maximilian Hankins
Maximilian Hankins
As a second-year student of International Relations, Max strives to write about relevant global issues to the IE Community and helps educate others on important current news and events. Aiming to provide insightful coverage of significant issues and use his experience living around the world to pinpoint the content most significant for students.

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