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Johnson speaks after two stinging defeats for Republicans: ‘Democracy is messy’

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., prepares to address the media about Tuesday’s failed impeachment vote of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) — Speaker Mike Johnson on Wednesday addressed two defeats for the Republican Party that unfolded on the House floor Tuesday evening, prompting criticism of his leadership and the GOP’s ability to govern.

“Last night was a setback, but democracy is messy,” Johnson told reporters on Capitol Hill, seeking to soften the losses. “We live in a time of divided government. We have a razor-thin margin here, and every vote counts.”

House Republicans, in back-to-back votes, failed to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and to push through a stand-alone bill to provide aid to Israel amid its conflict with Hamas.

“What would you say to Americans concerned that Congress isn’t able to do basic functions?” Johnson was asked by ABC News’ Jay O’Brien.

Johnson replied, “It’s just simply not true. We’re governing here. Sometimes it’s messy.”

“The framers anticipated that you would have a system where people with very different philosophical viewpoints, that come from different parts of the country and different constituencies would have different ideas on how to resolve their problems,” he continued. “But what they also anticipated is that we’d be able to get in the room and arm wrestle over public policy and come to consensus to move the ball forward for the most people.”

The Mayorkas vote came down to the wire, with Johnson choosing to forge ahead despite indications that some within his conference planned to vote against it. An unexpected appearance from one Democrat and three Republican defections tanked the resolution in a 216 to 214 vote.

Johnson said Wednesday that he will bring the impeachment articles up for a vote again and projected confidence it will pass. He didn’t elaborate on when that vote may take place.

“Mayorkas needs to be held accountable and the Biden administration needs to be held accountable, and we will pass the articles of impeachment,” he said. “We’ll do it on next round.”

Speaking on the Israel aid bill, Johnson laid blame on Democrats for opposing the measure. That bill failed 250-180, mostly along party lines though 14 Republicans opposed it and more than 40 Democrats supported it.

President Joe Biden has expressed opposition to the bill, citing House Republicans’ opposition to a bipartisan supplemental package that includes aid to Israel aid Ukraine as well as significant immigration reforms.

Both Biden and Johnson are accusing the other of playing politics on the issue.

“I think they did it to their detriment,” Johnson said of Democratic opposition to the stand-alone Israel bill. “And it’s a very shameful thing at a time when our ally Israel needs the help desperately.”

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