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Johnson plagued by GOP leaks as tensions escalate

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Another speaker, another plead to House GOP lawmakers to unify — at least in public — and stop leaking the drama that plays out behind closed doors.

As usual, the request is proving ineffective.

Speaker Mike Johnson complained about members airing their grievances to the media at a private conference meeting Wednesday morning. Almost immediately, multiple members vented to reporters about Johnson’s spending strategy, as the speaker pushes to pass a short-term funding bill as soon as Thursday, the ongoing fight over border policy changes — and the leak squabble.

“I think the speaker’s been concerned about some loser in conference [that] is live-streaming or passing on to media what’s happening in conference as we try to discuss strategy. But I think I would turn the tables — I would just go totally transparent,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Bishop urged Johnson to instead go scorched earth on the border, saying he should stake out how the conference can get a conservative win, such as on new border policies, then try to get every Republican to commit to fighting for it.

“And whoever won’t commit to it, [he should] let the American people know who that is,” Bishop said, recounting his message to reporters after the meeting.

It’s not the first time Johnson has made it clear the leaks are frustrating him. During a Sunday night press call, Johnson signaled he felt uncomfortable sharing further details of his spending plan, worried they’d be publicized amid negotiations with Senate Democrats. It’s an echo of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who would scold reporters for listening in and implore his own members to stop sharing such details.

It’s a further sign of the seemingly impossible problems in the House GOP. Johnson started leading the conference about three months ago, and conservative members were convinced he would bring in a new type of leadership and fight for their priorities. Instead, he’s facing near-identical headaches to McCarthy, including leaks and growing backlash from his right flank, plus added resentments from some members over McCarthy’s ouster.

The squabbling over leaks largely overshadowed talk of the funding deadline during Wednesday’s closed-door meeting, though Republicans acknowledge there’s still plenty of tension over that, too.

In further evidence of the near-constant bickering, Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) accused leadership of giving House Freedom Caucus Chair Bob Good (R-Va.) more time at the mics.

“I go up there and I get a minute and I get gaveled out. How does that happen? How do you think other members feel when they see that he gets treated in a different way that’s special?” Miller said after the meeting.

Miller added that there should be consequences for those Republicans who voted to boot McCarthy or others who aren’t following conference rules, a nod to conservatives who have blocked floor action several times in recent months: “We need disciplinary action — removing committee assignments, cutting off access to fundraising or things of that nature and actually making them pay for their actions.”