Massie cites three reasons for urging Speaker Johnson’s resignation; then what? Skip to content

Massie cites three reasons for urging Speaker Johnson’s resignation; then what?

First it was Marjorie Taylor Green calling for Johnson’s head. Now our own Thomas Massie has joined her. What is he thinking?

6 min read

For a Whiz Kid with fancy-schmancy degrees from some snooty college in liberal Massachusetts who has more patents than Edison (okay, that’s hyperbole, but play along for a second), it sure seems like Rep. Thomas Massie has a problem figuring out 2 + 2 sometimes.

Massie (R-SomewhereOrOtherLewisCounty) is, to put it nicely (as opposed to those who might prefer more scatological references), a gadfly who loves nothing more than stirring the pot. During his 14 years in the House, Massie has accomplished little while displaying a peculiar brand of neo-nihilism that manages to rankle lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. He has dogged two House speakers of his own party – Rep. John Boehner, R- OH (a nice guy, by the way) and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI – hoping to force them into relinquishing the post.

Now he’s going for the hat trick.

Our own Wonder Boy has joined forces with fellow whacko Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) (and, yes, you can tell the character of a person by the company he keeps) in sponsoring a resolution to oust Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) from the speakership he has held for a scant six months because Johnson isn’t following the Whiz Kid’s script.

Massie has called on Johnson to resign before he moves to officially give his compadre the old heave-ho.

Simply, Massie said, Johnson “can’t do this job.”

“There’s no red line,” Massie told Spectrum News. “There’s no straw that broke the camel’s back. I guess it’s just that he’s burned more political capital and I think he keeps putting himself in this position where he could get vacated on the floor, and I’m trying to avoid that scenario by getting him to resign.”

Massie has cited three reasons for his displeasure, but it’s likely he’s holding others as a trump card. Johnson has capitulated on several issues after taking a strong opposition line, all of which gave Massie the willies. He helped push through a $1.2 trillion package to fund the federal government; successfully passed reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA); and is pushing, with Democratic support, a $100 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine, Israel, and South Korea.

Here it should be acknowledged that Massie is right about at least one thing – Johnson can’t do this job. He swings back and forth on issues like a metronome, has little influence with his caucus or opposition Democrats, and seems to be only interested in converting the United States into a theocracy. When you consider he’s following in the long shadow of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), one of the most successful leaders in congressional history, Johnson comes across as a D League bench warmer.

Johnson’s selection was an obvious mistake from the get-go. Republicans regained the majority, albeit by a slim margin, as the result of the 2022 elections and immediately proved themselves incompetent, showcasing a wide division between the normal, far-right, GOP conservatives and the far-out, right-wing nutty-as-a-fruitcake conservatives. It finally selected Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as speaker after 15 rounds of voting when McCarthy swallowed a concession to allow any House member to offer a motion to “vacate the chair,” thus initiating a new election for speaker at any time.

That concession ultimately wound up biting McCarthy in the keister when a group of renegade Republicans, along with minority Democrats, rounded up the votes to toss him overboard last October after less than 10 months on the job. The problem was there was no obvious choice to replace him. It was, as former Vice President Mike Pence noted, “chaos.” It took more than three weeks for majority Republicans to get their act together, and after three other contenders failed to attract sufficient support, GOP lawmakers settled on Johnson.

Johnson’s sins, as pronounced by Massie, are easy to rationalize.

The appropriations measures that fund the government expired on Oct. 31 and, since there was no agreement on a new spending plan, the government was forced to operate on a series of continuing resolutions to keep the lights on. Lawmakers finally settled on the $1.2 trillion package last month – five months late – in what normal people would call a compromise.

Massie, apparently, would opt to just shut her down and lock the door. Johnson, rather appropriately, probably theorized that wouldn’t go too well with the voting public.

Ukraine has, of course, been argued ad infinitum. Without the money, Ukraine is likely to fall to the Russian invaders, destabilizing Europe and devaluing U.S. strength in the rest of the world while opening the door to future Russian expansion.

Wonder Boy cares little about this assessment. He has always had a soft spot in his heart for the Kremlin. He opposed a resolution, one of only three members to do so, expressing that the House is “steadfastly, staunchly, proudly, and fervently behind the Ukrainian people in their fight against the authoritarian Putin regime.” He further opposed a measure recommending the federal government uncover evidence “related to war crimes and other atrocities committed during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

Then there was the time in 2017 when he met with a Russian national, Maria Butina, who subsequently was convicted of being an unregistered foreign agent who infiltrated conservative political groups to influence U.S. policy regarding Russia.

Regardless, Massie has indicated his displeasure this time revolves around Johnson’s initial intent to tie Ukraine funding with enhancing immigration restrictions along the southern border. A solution, put together primarily by Senate Republicans, was developed to do just that, but was rejected by congressional Republicans at the urging of the once and perhaps future president, Donald J. Trump, who wants to use immigration as an issue in the November election.
With time wasting for Ukraine, Johnson agreed to put the issue up for a vote, which is still pending.

FISA is a bit more complicated. At issue is a section of the bill that allows the federal government to collect digital communications of foreigners located outside the U.S. without a warrant in an effort to enhance national security. Massie and others maintain the law could result in Americans having their own communications collected without a warrant if they exchanged messages with any foreign nationals in question, sparking privacy concerns.

Johnson, convinced that American security took precedence, ultimately decided to give it a vote. It passed – barely — and is headed for the Senate.

For what it’s worth, none of those decisions were outside the Republican mainstream. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, of Louisville, has expressed support for all three measures and has already voted for the spending bill. On the other hand, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Bowling Green) is sticking his nose in House business, supporting Massie’s efforts to oust Johnson, saying “Speaker Johnson and the Uniparty are united behind their laundry list of bad ideas,” adding, “they’re ticking all the boxes to put America last.”

Believe it or not, there was a time in America where reaching consensus on bipartisan legislation was considered a good thing. Now such a horror reflects the Uniparty. Go figure.

At any rate, Massie is right that Johnson isn’t up to the task, but he’s looking to ditch him for all the wrong reasons. And his calculations are skewed.

It took three weeks last time to pick Johnson. During that time nothing could be done. No bills passed, new members weren’t sworn in. The system grind to a halt.

There’s no reason the process will play out any easier this time. In fact, it might prove worse, with the House locking its doors for months as things play out. When Johnson assumed office, House Republicans held a 222-213 advantage over Democrats. Retirements will see that edge slip to 217-213 when, as expected, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) quits at the end of the month.

If tradition holds and Democrats vote as a bloc against any GOP speaker nominee, whoever runs will need 214 Republican votes, meaning all but three members of the caucus will have to line up behind one contender. Given past performance, that dog won’t hunt.

Johnson is looking to change the “vacate the chair” rule, which could keep him ensconced. He has not collected the votes, at least as yet.

There’s always the possibility that he might try to form a quasi-coalition government with Democrats since the margin is so small – offer certain concessions to gain their temporary support and attract enough Republican support to put him over the top.

It’s highly unlikely but it might be the only way out.

The arithmetic doesn’t work for Massie. The funny thing is that after years of service, with his party moving further to the right all the time, Massie, for at least a moment, found himself in the Republican mainstream.

Now he’s back on Gilligan’s Island with Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The mind boggles.


Written by Bill Straub, a member of the KY Journalism Hall of Fame. Cross-posted from the NKY Tribune.

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The NKyTribune is a publication of the KY Center for Public Service Journalism. We are a nonpartisan, independent news organization that produces journalism in the public interest for a place we love.



The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

A very light news day, with most of the focus on the arrest of the golfer at the PGA last week. Of note, though, is Heather Cox Richardson’s summary of President Biden’s commencement speech at Morehouse.

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