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Have a safe Memorial Day Weekend!

House Speaker Mike Johnson survives an attempt to oust him from his post

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana began yesterday as speaker of the House. At the end of the day, he still was. The House voted down a bid to unseat him.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE JOHNSON: I want to say that I appreciate the show of confidence from my colleagues to defeat this misguided effort. Hopefully, this is the end of the personality politics and the frivolous character assassination that has defined the 118th Congress.

INSKEEP: Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene triggered that vote. Only 10 Republicans joined her, as other Republicans and most Democrats kept the speaker they have. Republican Mike Lawler of New York voted against Greene's effort, and he's on the line. Representative Lawler, welcome to the program.

MIKE LAWLER: Thanks for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why stick with Speaker Johnson?

LAWLER: Because he's done a very good job. If you look over the last month and a half, we've finished our appropriations work. We've passed the FISA reauthorization. We've passed supplemental aid to our allies in Israel and Ukraine and Taiwan. And we're close to completing the FAA reauthorization. That's what you have to do as speaker. You have to govern. You have to build consensus, and that's what he's done.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about one of those issues of substance. Marjorie Taylor Greene opposes further U.S. aid to Ukraine in its bid to defend itself against Russia. Speaker Johnson ultimately allowed a vote on Ukraine aid, and even though a lot of Republicans were against it, it passed. It's got overwhelming support when you include the Democrats. Representative Greene says, in voting for Ukraine aid, you're not representing your party, and I'm interested if you think that's true. What have you heard from your voters specifically about aid to Ukraine?

LAWLER: Look, I believe in Ronald Reagan's adage of peace through strength. Russia, China and Iran are not our friends. They're not our allies. They are our adversaries, and everything they are doing in a concerted effort is to undermine the United States, Israel and the free world, and I think we have a responsibility to lead. The overwhelming majority of members of Congress supported aid to Ukraine, supported aid to Israel and supported aid to Taiwan.

Marjorie was given an up-or-down vote, which was one of the things she demanded for a long time, that there be a separate vote and let the members decide, and that's what happened. That is democracy. That is our constitutional republic. You have a right to object. You have a right to vote no, but we still have to do the work of the American people, and that's what the speaker did, and that's the responsible thing to do. My district supports aid to Ukraine. My district supports aid to Israel. So, you know, I not only voted my district, but I voted my conscience.

INSKEEP: I'm interested. I read an account in The New York Times where multiple lawmakers in recent weeks went home to their districts and found out that there was more support for Ukraine aid than they had imagined or anticipated among Republicans. Is that what you're hearing from your colleagues?

LAWLER: Oh, sure. Sure. I think - you know, look, as is often the case with these votes, you know, until you actually have the vote, you don't necessarily know where people stand on it, but this was an important vote. It was an important vote in this Congress. We got it passed, and, you know, now it's time to get the aid to our allies, including Israel.

INSKEEP: I think there's an interesting thing that you've already alluded to that is raised by one of Marjorie Taylor Greene's quotes about this. It gives her view of politics, which is not unique to her. I think a lot of people would speak this way. This is the quote from Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene - "What I'm demanding is simple, is we need to act like Republicans. We need to demand control." Do you think it is your role as a Republican to demand control in a situation of divided government?

LAWLER: No. Look, we are in a divided government, that Republicans control the House. The Democrats control the Senate and the White House. None of us are going to get everything we want. Anyone who's been married knows that. You have to find compromise along the way. If we want to have more control insofar as, you know, more conservative Republican ideas becoming law, then you need to maintain the House majority, you need to win the Senate and you need to win the White House. It's that simple. This isn't rocket science, but apparently, it's a difficult concept for some.

INSKEEP: How, in the minute or so we have left, do you think that you're going to be able to hold onto that very, very narrow House majority in this fall's election?

LAWLER: Look, despite the best effort of some, the map actually favors Republicans. Seats like mine that Joe Biden won in 2020 are, you know, very competitive, but I feel good about the work that we have been doing. Democrats have had a number of retirements in competitive seats. Republicans have not, and so, you know, we're going to pick up three seats in North Carolina at minimum, and New York and California will be the deciding factor. I feel very good about my race and where I stand because of the work we've been able to do, so I think we're in a very good spot to hold the House, despite the effort of some, and flip the Senate. So this is - you know, Congress is going to be very closely divided no matter who wins, whether it's Republicans or Democrats, in November.

INSKEEP: Congressman Mike Lawler represents New York's 17th Congressional District, north of New York City. Thanks so much.

LAWLER: Thanks for having me, Steve.

INSKEEP: Enjoyed talking with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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