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Johnson: ‘The person on the other side of the aisle is not an enemy’

Shortly after dodging an ousting attempt, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) urged members to turn their attention to foreign adversaries, not their enemies within the halls of Congress.

In an interview with Politico, Johnson told an anecdote about former President Ronald Reagan and Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill (Mass.) meeting after Reagan’s assassination attempt.

“They didn’t agree on almost anything, but they had respect for one another. And I think we’ve got to get back to that. I think America needs more of that,” he said.

“The person on the other side of the aisle is not an enemy. They’re a fellow American,” Johnson continued. “Our enemies are like Hamas and Hezbollah and the people who are trying to kill us. These are our political adversaries.”

Johnson, who took the gavel just over six months ago, has had a rocky journey leading the lower chamber.

After the historic ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Johnson earned enough support from House Republicans to become leader. Since then, he’s played tug of war with conservatives, finally passing desperately needed aid for Ukraine in its war with Russia, but also balancing Republican demands for more border security.

Fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) forced a vote to vacate Johnson on Wednesday after filing a motion more than a month ago.

The House voted overwhelmingly to protect Johnson from Greene’s ousting. Even former President Trump, an ally of Greene’s, supported keeping Johnson in power.

Johnson sat down for the interview with Politico just hours after the vote.

“Look, we have a job to do here. We have to govern. I’m glad that that was done. Let’s rip the Band-Aid off and get it done,” Johnson said. “I regret that it had to come to that.”

Johnson said he spoke with Greene and other frustrated Republicans and takes their thoughts, suggestions and ideas and tries to implement them “when they’re constructive.”

He told them after the vote that he wouldn’t carry a grudge and isn’t angry about the attempt to remove him from his job. House Republicans must work together because of their razor-thin majority, he said.

“We have got to have a functioning Congress, and I think the landslide vote against removing the Speaker is a signal that I think people on both sides of the aisle obviously understand this is not a time for games,” Johnson said.

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