NATIONAL VIEW: Honey, we shrunk the GOP majority

THE POINT: Too many House Republicans would prefer to be in the minority.

Democrats are lapping Republicans in this year’s election fund-raising, and could that be because GOP donors are wondering what they get for their money? Donors, both small-dollar and large, helped Republicans retake the House in 2022, and all they’ve received in return is a majority that revels in operating like a functional minority.

Soon it may not even be a majority at all. Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher, one of the GOP’s best Members, announced on Friday, March 22, that he’s resigning from the House on April 19. Colorado Rep. Ken Buck’s last day was Friday, March 22. You can criticize both for leaving early, but who can blame anyone sane for wanting to do something more useful with his life than serving in this House of horribles?

Their departures take the GOP majority down to 217-213, which means the party is a heart attack and absences or flipped votes away from putting Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries in charge. In some sense Mr. Jeffries already is in charge. Speaker Mike Johnson can’t pass legislation the usual way through the Rules Committee and then onto the floor with a simple majority. Every sensible majority that wants to govern packs the Rules Committee with Speaker loyalists. Not this crowd.

The anti-governing wing of the House GOP insisted on three of their own for Rules as one price of voting for Kevin McCarthy as Speaker in January 2023. They refuse to vote for Mr. Johnson’s inevitable compromises with Senate Democrats, so Mr. Johnson has to move legislation via the suspension calendar, which requires a two-thirds vote to pass anything. This means he needs Democratic votes, and a lot of them, because Republicans prefer to make futile gestures of opposition rather than vote to fund the government.

The practical effect is to reduce Republican leverage in a divided government and make it harder to achieve conservative policy victories. But then the same Members who undercut the majority boast on the House floor and social media that they are the only honest conservatives in Washington. They’re posers masquerading as principled, and they’re treating the voters at home like rubes.

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s motion Friday, March 22, to oust Mr. Johnson as Speaker exposes the deception behind the coup against Mr. McCarthy. After we criticized that October coup as destructive and self-serving, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz wrote us a letter saying that in electing Mr. Johnson the GOP now had a real conservative as leader.

So what’s wrong with Mr. Johnson now? Apparently because he’s not willing to indulge kamikaze acts like shutting down the government, Mr. Johnson is a sellout too.

Conservatives have long had a strong anti-Washington impulse, which is useful given the federal government’s relentless drive to expand its own power. But breaking that drive, and rolling back that power, requires calculation and often incremental gains. All the more so in a divided government.

The Wall Street Journal