Johnson gets religious during House GOP retreat

Johnson gets religious during House GOP retreat

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.

Johnson’s private remarks to a small group of Republican lawmakers at Miami’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel over the weekend alarmed both people, who addressed the speech on condition of anonymity. Rather than outlining a specific plan to hold and grow the majority, these people said, Johnson effectively delivered a sermon.

The Louisiana Republican showed slides to the members of his Elected Leadership Committee (ELC) team in a bid to tout the party’s prospects of hanging onto its two-seat majority in November. Johnson, a devout Christian, attempted to rally the group by discussing moral decline in America — focusing on declining church membership and the nation’s shrinking religious identity, according to both people in the room.

The speaker contended that when one doesn’t have God in their life, the government or “state” will become their guide, referring back to Bible verses, both people said. They added that the approach fell flat among some in the room.

“I’m not at church,” one of the people said, describing Johnson’s presentation as “horrible.”

“I think what he was trying to do, but failed on the execution of it, was try to bring us together,” that person said. “The sermon was so long he couldn’t bring it back to make the point.”

A third person in the room who is close to Johnson said that the speaker dipped into historical and religious points for perhaps a third of his presentation, arguing that the party needed to save the country. That person, who spoke on condition of anonymity about the private gathering, said Johnson also talked about polling on the border, how President Joe Biden compares to Donald Trump on various issues and the House GOP’s core message.

The weekend retreat also featured notable tension between GOP conference leaders and Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.), who argued in Miami that Johnson needs to lead Republicans in the direction that is favored by conservatives.

Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) pushed back, questioning if Good — who had voted to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy — would let Johnson lead or if he would block him whenever he disagreed with the GOP leader’s approach, according to all three people who addressed the speaker’s presentation. Conservatives have blocked legislation from being considered on the floor several times this term.

Johnson’s office declined to comment.

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