Members of the House Freedom Caucus are watching Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., with a wary but hopeful eye after a GOP rebellion over government spending saw the new leader take his first major public setback.
‘He assures us, and we trust him that that’s the case,’ Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., told Fox News Digital of Johnson’s goals to cut spending and advance conservative policies.
Norman added, ‘Now, if that’s not the case, then I mean, we’re going to get cuts either way. We’re gonna start taking rules down. We’re just not going to keep going like this. We’re just not doing it. Whatever it takes.’
Long-standing fractures within the House GOP Conference, primarily over government spending, rose to the surface again this past week after Johnson passed a short-term spending bill known as a continuing resolution (CR) to avert a government shutdown.
‘I’ve been very public about it, I think it was a mistake… and I think it was not in the best interest of trying to force Democrats to the table on the things we need to do,’ Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told Fox News Digital.
‘Bottom line is, he’s been in three weeks, he’s a good friend, he’s a good man. I’ll fully get behind him, you know, if we pick a fight, we’ll go fight. Let’s rock and roll, move forward,’ Roy said.
Roy and Norman were two of 19 Republicans who tanked a procedural vote, known as a rule vote, on the spending bill dealing with the Departments of Justice and Commerce on Wednesday.
Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., another opponent of Johnson’s CR who voted to kill the rule, told reporters afterward, ‘We’re sending a shot across the bow. We do this in good faith. We want to see these bills move. We want to see good righteous policy. But we’re not going to be part of the failure theater anymore.’
Norman said his vote against the rule was as much a protest vote as it was about his opposition to the spending bill itself.
Johnson’s predecessor, ex-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was ousted by eight Republican hardliners and all Democrats after putting a clean CR on the floor. But the conservatives who spoke with Fox News Digital insisted that Johnson is taking a different approach than McCarthy had — for now.
‘It’s not in his nature to just listen at the beginning and then fade into the habits of just convening leadership meetings, and not listening to the people. He’ll be that listening speaker who continues to solicit the input of the rank-and-file moving forward,’ Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ben Cline, R-Va., who voted for the rule, told Fox News Digital.
‘That confidence… among us, the rank and file members, is going to help him as he moves forward.’
Norman similarly praised Johnson: ‘We trust Mike… he laid it out, and he just was honest with us. We never had that with McCarthy.’
Though he warned, ‘This country is in trouble financially. There will be no difference between McCarthy and Johnson if the spending continues. We’ve got to come up with some solution.’
Roy would not comment directly on comparisons between McCarthy and Johnson, explaining, ‘I’m not interested that much in rehashing all of this. It is what it is. We are where we are, and we need to move forward.’
But the Texas Republican suggested that he saw the House GOP as largely in a similar spot as it was a month ago, before Johnson took charge — not that he blamed him.
‘What I would say is, there was a lot of noise for a month and change for us to end up with a CR,’ Roy said. ‘There’s a whole lot of noise, there’s a whole lot of bluster, but we kind of got off track. And now we’ve got to figure out how to get back on track fighting.’
Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo., another Freedom Caucus member who voted to advance the failed spending bill but against the CR, told Fox News Digital of Johnson, ‘I’m withholding any kind of judgment because I think it’s hard to imagine, if I was in his shoes, being able to find or devise a plan that’s different.’
‘The real test will be when it comes to FISA reauthorization or when it comes to finding a path on these appropriations bills,’ he said. ‘What I think is the real fight is not between the conference and Mike Johnson, it’s the conference against the conference.’