Mike Johnson can't get Republicans in control

Mike Johnson and Matt Gaetz
House Speaker Mike Johnson has tried to get Republican congresspeople like Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida to stop backing primary challengers to GOP lawmakers.Anna Moneymaker and Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images
  • House Speaker Mike Johnson can't stop Republicans from trying to kick their colleagues out of Congress.

  • Per CNN, at least four races feature GOP lawmakers supporting challengers to same-party incumbents.

  • Even some centrist lawmakers are throwing themselves into the chaos.

House Republicans still can't get out of their own way.

Speaker Mike Johnson is leading one of the narrowest majorities in House history. Understandably, he's trying to grow his majority in November. His efforts to do this are undermined by a conservative push to boot more centrist colleagues from office, though even the more establishment lawmakers are striking.

"I've asked them all to cool it," Johnson told CNN. "I am vehemently opposed to member-on-member action in primaries because it's not productive. And it causes division for obvious reasons, and we should not be engaging in that."

As CNN reported, there are at least four races where GOP lawmakers support primary challengers. Only one of the four contests, that of Rep. Tony Gonzales of Texas, represents what's expected to be a competitive district come November. But history shows that nominating more conservative, less experienced challengers can come back to bite the GOP. Some lawmakers have also cited the increased intraparty drama as the reason they want to leave Congress. After all, the GOP led the House to go nearly four weeks without a speaker throughout 2023.

One of the main figures in this fight is Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. He led the historic ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Gaetz is campaigning against Gonzales and Rep. Mike Bost of Illinois and unrepentant about his decisions.

"I would love nothing more than to just go after Democrats," Gaetz told CNN. "But if Republicans are going to dress up like Democrats in drag, I'm going to go after them, too. Because at the end of the day, we're not judged by how many Republicans we have in Congress. We're judged on whether or not we save the country."

Gonzales is locked in a runoff election against Brandon Herrera, a pro-gun YouTuber whose X handle is @TheAKGuy. One of the key issues in the race is Gonzales' support for a bipartisan gun-safety package passed in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting. The Texas Republican Party previously censured Gonzales, who was one of 14 House Republicans who voted for the modest law that, even with its limited scope, comprised the most significant gun restrictions to pass Congress since the 1990s.

As for the more traditional Republicans, they're targeting Rep. Bob Good of Virginia, a Freedom Caucus member. Good was one of the seven lawmakers who joined Gaetz and every House Democrat in the vote that booted McCarthy from power. In one stunning sign, per CNN, Rep. Mike Rogers, the House Armed Services Committee's chair, is scheduled to appear at a fundraiser for Good's challenger, John McGuire, a Navy SEAL.

It's rare for committee chairs to defy their party's leadership, but Johnson doesn't hold the same sway as a traditional speaker. Johnson also can't paper over the deep distrust after McCarthy's exit. McCarthy himself, CNN reported, has also sought to back challengers to the eight Republicans he views at the core of the betrayal.

To be fair, primary challenges are not unheard of. McCarthy himself backed now-Rep. Harriet Hageman as it became clear that the GOP wanted to kick then-Rep. Liz Cheney out of Congress. Some House Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, backed a primary challenger to Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat whose more right-leaning views, especially on abortion, were detested by progressives. Cuellar faced down two straight competitive challenges.

The good news for Republicans is that special elections should pad their majority. But if infighting continues to plague the party, the headaches will continue to mount come November.

Read the original article on Business Insider