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Why Speaker Johnson’s ‘sermon’ to GOP members reportedly fell flat

Beleaguered House Speaker Mike Johnson is trying to turn things around at the Elected Leadership Committee retreat. Things apparently aren't going well.


Even House Speaker Mike Johnson’s ostensible allies concede that the Louisiana Republican has struggled since receiving the gavel four months ago. “He’s had a really tough process,” Rep. Patrick McHenry told CBS News. “We’ve thrown him into the deepest end of the pool with the heaviest weights around him and [we’re] trying to teach him how to learn to swim.”

The North Carolina Republican added, “It’s been a rough couple of months.”

The assessment seemed more than fair. Johnson hasn’t just struggled with the most basic legislative tasks, he’s also faced multiple backlashes from his own members, some of whom have raised the prospect of trying to fire him.

A Punchbowl News report concluded last week, “This is the most chaotic, inefficient and ineffective majority we’ve seen in decades covering Congress.”

It was against this backdrop that House Republican leaders gathered this week in Miami for its annual Elected Leadership Committee retreat, and they were joined by GOP committee chairs and prominent members of competing factions from within the party’s conference. How are things going? Politico reported:

Speaker Mike Johnson delivered a presentation at a weekend GOP retreat that — although it was billed as a map to keeping the House majority — took on a surprisingly religious tone, according to two people in the room. ... Rather than outlining a specific plan to hold and grow the majority, these people said, Johnson effectively delivered a sermon.

The report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, added that the House speaker “attempted to rally the group by discussing moral decline in America — focusing on declining church membership and the nation’s shrinking religious identity.”

“I’m not at church,” an attendee said, describing Johnson’s presentation as “horrible.”

Punchbowl News had a related report, noting that the speaker “lectured his colleagues” in Miami, but “didn’t present a vision.”

Part of the problem with Johnson’s reported pitch is that he appears to have focused on something Congress has no control over: Unless Republicans are prepared to pass a bill to reverse declining church membership — a measure that would obviously be radically at odds with the First Amendment — there probably wasn’t any practical point to his “sermon.”

But even more important is the fact that Congress has a weighty to-do list. The deadline for a partial government shutdown, for example, is eight days away. What’s more, the Senate has already approved a security aid package for U.S. allies abroad, and no one seems to have any idea what, if anything, the GOP-led House intends to do about the issue.

As things stand, Johnson appears to have no plan, no vision, no legislative strategy to speak of, and no way to pass the bills he appears to support.

Is it any wonder things aren’t going well for House Republicans in Miami?