Capitol Building

Spending Showdown Looms On Capitol Hill

It’s high noon for the latest “Republican” leader …

The battle lines are drawn, the date is set, and Mike Johnson’s House speakership is on the line.

If this is starting to sound hauntingly familiar, it should. In 2023, an internal dustup with dissatisfied conservatives in the House Republican Caucus brought down Kevin McCarthy, Johnson’s predecessor as speaker. Now, it appears history may be warming up in the bullpen – preparing to repeat itself.

At issue this time around is a quartet of bills addressing a trifecta of front-burner issues: Foreign aid, national security, and the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, set for a vote this weekend. All are very big problems — and the measures Johnson proposes carry very big price tags, too. 


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Which is precisely why hardcore conservatives on the Hill are hopping mad. The orgy of federal spending Congress has indulged in over the past few decades has left Uncle Sam with a staggering national debt (more than $34.7 trillion and counting)

Put another way, that means you, me, and every other American is in the hole for more than $103,000 each. Those of us who pay taxes are faced with a $267,000 tab.

Got that kind of money lying around? Didn’t think so …

With no end to the profligacy in sight, hardcore conservatives are crying, “enough already!” Two Republicans, Majorie Taylor Greene and Thomas Massie, have filed a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair. That essentially triggers a “no confidence” vote that could snatch the speaker’s gavel out of Johnson’s hands (which is what happened to McCarthy last fall). What they haven’t done is pull the trigger on formalizing their threat by bringing it up for a vote. Greene & Co. intended it to be the legislative equivalent of the warning a cop gives when you’re pulled over for speeding, along with a stern reminder that there’ll be a hefty ticket next time.

But Johnson is standing his ground – meaning when this bundle of bills comes up for a House vote in the coming days, it will signal high noon on Capitol Hill.


House of Representatives’ speaker Mike Johnson.(Gage Skidmore)


Here’s where things get downright fascinating. Because big stakes surround this big game of “chicken.”

For starters, there’s the international climate. Israel just withstood a massive attack by a barrage of Iranian-launched drones and missiles. Its Iron Dome and David’s Sling defense systems performed admirably. But that, along with the ongoing Hamas War in Gaza, has Tel Aviv rapidly running through its armaments supply.

At the same time, as the world waits to see how Israel will respond to last weekend’s attack, Tehran is taunting it by saying, “You think the last round was bad? Wait till you see what we’re cooking up for you next.” The progressive/woke wing of the Democratic Party is adamantly opposed to sending one more dollar to America’s most steadfast ally in the Middle East.

Which argument will carry the day?

Then there’s the political dynamic in an election year. Taylor Greene is widely viewed as the face of MAGA within the House. Yet former president (and presumptive 2024 GOP presidential nominee) Donald Trump is in Johnson’s corner.



The big wild card in all this lurks on the other side of the aisle. If Greene and her allies green light a motion to vacate, how would Democrats react? The entire House votes on its speaker, after all. Democrats didn’t lift a finger to save McCarthy last time around in 2023. Would they vote to save Johnson’s bacon in 2024? At midweek, they were dropping breadcrumbs, suggesting they might. (Which, should that happen, would have conservatives screaming, “See! We told you a “uniparty” runs Washington. This vote confirms it.”) 

Likewise, Johnson has no margin for error as he makes his political calculations. The GOP majority in the House has dwindled to a scant handful of seats. A misstep could send him home to Shreveport. 

Finally, as with anything big happening this year, there are the implications for this fall’s election. Let’s face it: this presidential race is a referendum on Trump and incumbent president Joe Biden. There are plenty of sideshows swirling around them, but November’s vote will boil down to accepting one and rejecting the other, pure and simple. However, the worsening toxicity on Capitol Hill could have a direct bearing on House and Senate races and control of Congress.

The result? One Washington-based strategist we talked with summed it up this way: “No matter how you slice it, Republicans are screwed, blued, and tattooed.”



Mark Powell (Provided)

J. Mark Powell is an award-winning former TV journalist, government communications veteran, and a political consultant. He is also an author and an avid Civil War enthusiast. Got a tip or a story idea for Mark? Email him at



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Elephant Graveyard April 18, 2024 at 2:08 pm

Republicans feeling the need to stack another L on the pile because they always come out as the losers on this.

Tired of all this “winning” yet?

CongareeCatfish Top fan April 18, 2024 at 4:03 pm

We were on a path to fiscal greatness in the 1990s, but then 9-11 happened. I will always regard it as the beginning of our economic decline. We couldn’t just go find the enemy and their allies, and kill them, then go home, no, both Democrats and Republicans wanted to go on a nation building tour. We gave hundreds of billions to Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, only to find out the Pakis were hiding Osama all along, and the Afghanis on our side were corrupt sock puppets who couldn’t stand up a real government after 15+ years of us propping them up. Then came Obama, with the laughably named Affordable Care Act, accumulating more debt than all of his predecessors COMBINED. Not to be outdone, Trump said “hold my beer” and commenced to spend more money than any president in history in a single four-year term, on account of a virus with a .003 fatality rate for anyone under the age of 70. Lastly, Biden staggers in, not to be outspent by Trump, and surpasses even him with the even more absurdly named INflation Reduction Act, whihc was really just a re-packaging of the Neo-marxist Green New Deal. Our federal government is going to go bankrupt, and its because the American people would not take this stuff seriously enough to vote out the grifting bozos in both parties. We also refused to face reality – that Social Security was implemented at a time when the life expectancy was ten years less than it is now -it was meant to keep people from being out on the streets and eating dog food, not a full-fledged retirement plan. EVERYTHING MUST BE CUT. Apathy is destroying our country


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