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Marjorie Taylor Greene’s attempts to out-Jesus Mike Johnson aren’t going to work

The House Speaker’s allies are not pleased with efforts to oust him.

As Speaker Mike Johnson attempts to shepherd a package of foreign aid bills, including one with vital aid for Ukraine, through the House of Representatives, all eyes are on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s threat to oust him. So far, only Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., has backed her efforts, but other far-right members surrounded Johnson on the House floor Thursday to express their disagreements.

Greene and her fellow ideologues may want to tread carefully. There is a growing backlash on the Christian right against the move to oust Johnson. While Greene’s MAGA influencer antics garner significant media attention, people with longtime clout in the evangelical political trenches, including Johnson himself, have been waging a quiet but scathing war against her in Christian media. The GOP’s evangelical base — vital to Republican hopes in the fall — is hearing that Greene is groundlessly attacking a godly man and imperiling the party’s election chances, thus bringing (in Johnson’s words) the Democrats’ “crazy woke agenda” closer to fruition.

@SpeakerJohnson you can’t follow Christ and fund full term abortion clinics.”

Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE?In a POST ON X

Johnson himself struck first, appearing on the Christian Broadcasting Network with David Brody, a popular evangelical reporter known for nabbing newsy interviews with Washington insiders. The speaker pushed back at Greene’s attacks on his faith, including a tirade on X, railing against Johnson’s supposedly un-Christian capitulation to big government spending: “@SpeakerJohnson you can’t follow Christ and fund full term abortion clinics,” Greene wrote. Never mind that there is no federal funding for abortion, nor is there such a thing as a “full-term abortion.” Greene’s aim was to one-up Johnson as the most ardent Christian patriot in the room.

Fully aware that Brody’s audience knows his long track record as a loyal foot soldier in the battle for the Christian nation, Johnson reminded CBN viewers of his Christian bona fides. “I try to follow all the biblical admonitions as I do every day,” Johnson said. “One of them says you ‘bless those who persecute you.’ I’m getting a lot of practice in that right now and that is, ‘A soft word turns away wrath.’”

A few days after the CBN interview, Johnson appeared on the inaugural episode of right-wing Salem News Network’s new show “This Week on the Hill,” hosted by Family Research Council president Tony Perkins. At first, Johnson and Perkins, one of the most influential evangelical figures inside the Beltway, spent considerable time attacking President Biden and the Democrats. But then they turned their attention inside the GOP caucus.

While Perkins and Johnson did not name Greene directly, the implication was obvious, as was their fear that her theatrics could cost Republicans on Election Day. Perkins first criticized “some members” of Congress who “are here more to build their brand than they are to govern and lead the country.” Johnson insisted that “I’m not talking about anyone individually,” but went on to admonish Republicans to “make sure people who come here are coming to govern and not just be famous.” But after Perkins brought up Greene’s motion to vacate, the pair lambasted it and her threats to shut down the government, which they concluded would only come back to bite them in November. “This is a dangerous gambit,” Johnson concluded. “We’ve got to keep the train on the tracks, and this is not a helpful thing.”

Perkins also interviewed Greene’s fellow Georgia Republican Rich McCormick — who, not incidentally, supports U.S. aid to Ukraine. Perkins, Johnson and McCormick did not directly address the aid bill, but McCormick did take a shiv into Greene. “This has no thought process behind it,” he said of the motion to vacate, comparing it to tackling the quarterback of your own team. In case his message wasn’t clear enough, McCormick added that Johnson, a “proven conservative,” was “chosen by God.”

Christian right veterans know the electoral landscape is already fraught for the party of Trump and abortion bans.

It hasn’t just been men attacking a prominent female member of the GOP caucus. Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, another powerful Christian right group with a strong Capitol Hill presence, published an op-ed in Newsweek earlier this month calling on Greene to give up her “pointless” effort. “Every day, her attacks get more shrill and conspiratorial—she has questioned Johnson’s faith, claimed that he has surrendered to Democrats, and even suggested that he is being blackmailed,” Nance wrote. “Can such dissenters ever be satisfied, or are they more interested in the 15 minutes of fame that comes with bashing their leader?” Like Perkins and Johnson, Nance cast aspersions on Greene’s motives, and warned that her stunts could cost the party in November. “The Republicans now turning on Johnson may need a reminder that we are only seven months from an election,” she wrote.

The GOP’s far-right flank is still making noise about deposing Johnson. But more than anyone else, Christian right veterans know the electoral landscape is already fraught for the party of Trump and abortion bans. Their face-off with the Freedom Caucus gadflies sends the unmistakable signal that they are terrified of losing in November. They are also sending a signal to Greene and anyone else who joins her that they already know who they are going to blame for the fallout if she pulls the trigger to unseat Johnson.

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