As Speaker, Johnson Advances What He Once Opposed, Enraging the Right

As a low-profile, rank-and-file congressman representing his deeply red district, Representative Mike Johnson took the positions of a hard-liner.

He repeatedly voted down efforts to send aid to Ukraine, citing insufficient oversight of where the money would go. He opposed the stopgap funding bill that then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy put on the House floor in efforts to avert a government shutdown. He supported a sweeping overhaul favored by libertarians to the law that undergirds a warrantless surveillance program that is reviled by right-wing lawmakers who distrust federal law enforcement.

But now that he is Speaker Johnson, he has changed his tune considerably, much to the chagrin and outrage of the right-wing lawmakers with whom he once found common cause.

After months of refusing to bring up a bill to send a fresh infusion of aid to Ukraine, Mr. Johnson is now searching for a way to advance it, having privately pledged that the Congress would “do our job.” Despite a vow in the fall never to pass another stopgap funding bill to keep the government open, he put forward several to allow more time to negotiate funding agreements with Democrats that were opposed by many of his members. And later this week, the speaker plans to put to a vote a bill making more modest changes to the surveillance program, over the objections of hard-right lawmakers and activists who have sought to place strict limits on it.

“House Judiciary Committee Member Mike Johnson has a bone to pick with Speaker of the House Mike Johnson,” Adam Brandon, the president of FreedomWorks, a center-right advocacy group, said in a statement decrying his reversal on the intelligence bill.

As a steward of the federal government — his post is second in line to the presidency — and wrangler of his party’s slim majority, Mr. Johnson has lately found himself embracing bills he once opposed in order to meet the basic demands of governing and often pushing them through with Democratic votes.

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