Sanity Prevails, and So Does Mike Johnson

April 25, 2024

As performance art, Rep. Thomas Massie’s exchange Saturday with Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto was a tour de force. The Kentucky Republican demanded that Speaker Mike Johnson resign and sharply criticized his leadership. But there was no substance to his complaints. 

Mr. Massie accused the speaker of betraying Republicans three times. The first instance, he said, was securing the passage of the omnibus budget bill in March that funded the government, already about halfway through its fiscal year. The second was reauthorizing U.S. intelligence agencies to intercept foreign communications from suspected terrorists. The third was allowing military aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan to pass the House. 

Who put Mr. Massie in charge of deciding who betrayed whom on these issues? 

Congressional Republicans were narrowly divided on the omnibus bill: In the House and Senate combined, 126 Republicans supported it while 134 opposed it. The bill passed with overwhelming support from Democrats, who swallowed spending cuts to avoid a shutdown. Would Mr. Massie expel the nearly half of congressional Republicans who didn’t join him in voting to close down Washington?

Congressional Republicans also supported reauthorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s Section 702, with 156 GOP senators and representatives in favor and only 104 against. That provision allows the government to listen to the communications of suspected foreign terrorists outside the U.S. Mr. Massie opposed this vital antiterrorist tool.

Mr. Massie was also out of step with the Republican majorities that backed the foreign military assistance packages this month. A total of 132 House and Senate Republicans supported military aid to Ukraine; 127 opposed it. A substantial majority of Republicans senators and representatives—224—backed military supplies for Israel and humanitarian aid for Gaza; only 36 didn’t. Security assistance for Taiwan was supported by 209 House and Senate Republicans and opposed by 49. The neoisolationist Mr. Massie voted against aiding all three U.S. allies.

Mr. Massie’s most ironic criticism of the speaker was his claim that Mr. Johnson is “not effective at raising money to keep our majority.” That’s coming from someone who last cycle raised less than half of the $275,000 he’d been asked to raise for the National Republican Congressional Committee. By comparison, 161 House Republicans fulfilled their assessments, many raising much more money than requested. Mr. Massie was one of only 48 who came up short.

It’s surprising that Mr. Massie raised anything, since he has likened assessments to “extortion” and called the dues system “corrupt.” He once flaunted that he hadn’t donated to the NRCC for five years. Now he has the audacity to criticize Mr. Johnson, who raised $10.6 million for the GOP campaign in the fourth quarter of 2023 and recently announced that he raised over $20 million in this year’s first quarter.

Mr. Massie even had the chutzpah to insist the speaker “give us a few weeks advance notice” before resigning so House Republicans “can keep going about our business of investigations and hearings” while they “pick a speaker in our conference instead of letting that play out on the floor.” 

Mr. Massie’s efforts to intimidate Mr. Johnson into leaving echo those of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.), peddler of countless conspiracy theories and leader of the expel-the-speaker effort. Ms. Greene recently said on Fox News that Mr. Johnson “needs to do the right thing, to resign and allow us to move forward in a controlled process. If he doesn’t do so, he will be vacated.”

Read More at the WSJ

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