Speaker Johnson Facing Increasing Freedom Caucus Criticism

When Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) played a pivotal role in replacing then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) last year, the America First base held out a glimmer of hope for dedicated conservative leadership. They expected newly elected Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) to steer the House with a stronger hand toward fulfilling the mandate voters gave Republicans in the 2022 midterm elections.

Under the Biden administration, with Democrats controlling the White House and Senate, the House of Representatives is the Republican Party’s last bastion in federal politics. It’s a critical platform for challenging President Biden’s policies, which many conservatives view as authoritarian and harmful to American values and freedoms. Yet, in this pivotal role, Speaker Johnson has consistently yielded to Democratic pressures, putting aside core conservative concerns.

The latest evidence of this trend emerged on Thursday when the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government through early March. Despite calls from prominent conservatives like Rep. Bob Good (R-VA) and others in the House Freedom Caucus for a border security amendment, Johnson opted not to include it. This decision, leaving the sensitive issue of America’s border security unresolved, highlights a worrying pattern of concession and compromise on Johnson’s part.

What is even more telling is the voting pattern on this CR. More Democrats voted in favor of it than Republicans, signaling a concerning alignment with Democratic preferences over those of his party. Before this, Johnson had supported a nearly $1.66 trillion spending package, which not only proposed increased federal spending but also lacked significant conservative-backed measures, such as stringent border policies and checks on the perceived overreach of intelligence agencies.

The actions of Speaker Johnson have raised eyebrows among conservative circles. His decision to avoid confrontation and instead prolong government funding through CRs without attaching critical conservative measures suggests a reluctance to leverage Republican power against the Biden administration’s agenda. This approach contrasts sharply with the promises made to conservative voters. It betrays a fundamental expectation from a Republican House leader — opposing and scrutinizing Democrat policies staunchly.

Moreover, Johnson’s stance on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 further cements this impression. Important conservative issues like halting the Pentagon’s controversial policies and ensuring military resources aren’t used for purposes many conservatives find objectionable were notably absent in the final bill.

This pattern of behavior raises questions about the strategic direction and leadership within the Republican House. When Gaetz led the move to oust McCarthy, it seemed like a move toward a more assertively conservative leadership. Yet, the results under Johnson’s speakership have been underwhelming, if not outright disappointing, for the conservative base.

While Johnson was initially perceived as a staunch, Bible-adhering conservative ready to challenge the left’s progressive policies, his actions have not lived up to that promise to date. With this year’s election season already well underway, the GOP must immediately get its house in order if the party hopes to build and retain a winning coalition that normal Americans will support.