Anti-Abortion Leaders Are Turning on Mike Johnson Because He’s Trying to Stop a Shutdown

The House Speaker is maybe dropping fringe anti-abortion demands to avoid a shutdown, and anti-abortion hardliners, as well as House Republicans, are peeved.

Anti-Abortion Leaders Are Turning on Mike Johnson Because He’s Trying to Stop a Shutdown

When Mike Johnson was elected House Speaker over two long months ago, anti-abortion hard-liners celebrated it as a win: Finally, here was a fellow extremist, who compared abortion to the Holocaust and even blamed abortion for school shootings, presiding over the House of Representatives. But according to a new Politico report, these same allies are now turning on Johnson as the embattled Speaker tries to stave off a government shutdown by making compromises so a budget deal can pass the Senate’s Democratic majority. These compromises include possibly dropping the fringe anti-abortion budget riders that far-right House members and top anti-abortion organizations have been calling for.

Per Politico, among these ridiculous budget riders are “measures to ban mail delivery of abortion pills, reimpose anti-abortion restrictions on global HIV programs, block the military from funding service members’ travel across state lines for an abortion, cancel coverage of abortion for veterans, kick Planned Parenthood out of various federal health programs and ban state Medicaid programs from covering abortion.” A real mouthful of awful ideas that would impose mass suffering and deny health care to millions—and, thankfully, would never be allowed to move forward with a Democrat-controlled Senate and White House.

Nonetheless, anti-abortion hardliners in Congress and organizations like the Heritage Foundation aren’t best pleased with Johnson, who they assumed would somehow perform miracles like managing to ban medication abortion by pushing through a budget rider using the sheer force of pro-life hatred.

Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), chair of the far-right Freedom Caucus, told Politico “the majority of the Republican conference” will be “disappointed and upset” if Johnson doesn’t fight harder for the aforementioned, impossible anti-abortion riders. “The House majority ought to count for something. We should get at least half of what we want, shouldn’t we?” Good said. Another unnamed House Republican told Politico that Johnson hasn’t been forthright with the caucus about which anti-abortion policy riders he is and isn’t negotiating for. And without these budget riders, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Ga.) told Politico “We’ve got a problem,” calling them “a priority” for conservatives.


Anti-abortion lobbyists expressed even more frustration. “I understand the numbers. But what I don’t understand is that there just doesn’t even seem to be a fight,” Tom McClusky, a lobbyist with Catholic Vote, told the outlet. “It doesn’t even seem to be a factor with House leadership.” A spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation, which once celebrated Johnson as “the right person for the job” of Speaker, insisted that Congress “assert its constitutional authority” to impose anti-abortion restrictions “through the power of the purse,” which, I assume, is a pretentious way to refer to the federal budget. The organization called on Johnson and Congress to tell the Biden administration, “If you want money to do what you’re supposed to do, which is serve our veterans or provide health care, etc., then you do it without the taint of abortion.” (The argument, here, is that abortion can be separated from health care and other basic human needs, which just isn’t true!)

By contrast, at least a few Republican members seemed sympathetic to Johnson’s plight and called on their colleagues to whittle down their expectations—advice I’m sure the famously reasonable House Republicans will heed. “The speaker has put us in a position to at least be able to negotiate,” Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said. “A shutdown will do nothing except waste money and destroy our ability to get conservative wins.” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said Johnson “hasn’t promised us policy wins, he’s promised us that we can fight for policy wins.” And Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.) ceded that none of “this stuff passes without bipartisan support” and “surviving 60 votes in the Senate.”

Frustrations with Johnson from anti-abortion hard-liners come as a handful of far-right House members have both ambiguously and unambiguously threatened to remove Johnson as Speaker over compromises he’s made with Democrats on the budget. Over three days last week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) went from calling a motion to remove Johnson “the dumbest thing that could happen” to saying she would “go so far to vacate the chair and there’s others that agree with me” over funding for Ukraine. “If Speaker Johnson doesn’t deliver on the conservative credentials he promised us, then I suspect we will be looking for a new Speaker,” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) said on CNN last Thursday.

I’ll say it: I do not feel sorry for Mike Johnson. This is the circus he chose to lead. And we also know that he’d absolutely ban abortion and impose all of the terrible budget riders House Republicans are demanding if he could. This is a man who’s on the record celebrating the end of Roe v. Wade and directing women to pop out “able-bodied workers” to fund social security, who’s voted in favor of laws that would ban not just abortion but IVF and even birth control. He’s an extremist who’s railed against no-fault divorce and has publicly disclosed his deal with his son to monitor each other’s masturbation habits. The only thing stopping him from enacting an anti-abortion dystopia is that he doesn’t have the numbers. Best of luck to him as he now must reason with a faction of people who are so ~reasonable~ they think embryos deserve more rights than women.

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