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Speaker Mike Johnson loses three key staff members

Mike Johnson loses trio of key policy aides

News: Three leading members of Speaker Mike Johnson’s policy team are leaving his office by the end of May, robbing the House’s top Republican of a critical core of experienced aides.

Brittan Specht, Jason Yaworske and Preston Hill — all of whom also worked for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy — are heading to Michael Best Strategies, a lobbying firm with offices in D.C. and around the country.

The departure, which is striking in size and in experience, strips Johnson of a significant amount of expertise in his domestic policy shop. Specht was McCarthy’s policy director and was key in crafting the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which raised the debt limit and set budget levels for two years.

Yaworske is a well-respected adviser to the speaker on the appropriations and budget matters. As the House Appropriations Committee begins marking up the FY2025 spending bills, Yaworske’s expertise on government spending is in demand.

And Hill, a longtime figure in GOP leadership, was in charge of overseeing House Republican policy in burgeoning policy areas such as cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence as well as Education and the Workforce and Financial Services.

Another common thread here is that all three have been at the table during high-stakes negotiations — something that is a rarity at the top levels of the Republican leadership.

Downtown view: Michael Best Strategies is the professional home of former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), former Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. Priebus is the chair of the board of advisers, Gardner is on the board of advisers and Israel is a senior counselor and on the board of advisers.

Michael Best represents the Haribo Group, a candy company; Long Island University; Ripple Labs; T-Mobile and Waste Management.

The big picture: Johnson had a nine-person policy shop anchored by Dan Ziegler, the speaker’s policy director. Losing three senior advisers with significant experience isn’t great for the Louisiana Republican. It’s true that Congress is a transient institution, where ambitious aides slip between K Street and government with regularity. But having the speaker lose three policy aides with this kind of experience is a blow.

Team Johnson says they will be hiring new policy staff soon. But we’ll see who is willing to commit with the election only 167 days away.

The reaction: Johnson, in an emailed statement, thanked the trio for their “sacrificial service” to his team and “all House Republicans over many years.”

McCarthy, who employed all three, said this:

Also: With the House returning today, it’s worth watching three developments this week:

The House Appropriations Committee is marking up the MilCon-VA bill in subcommittee today. House Republicans’ first FY2025 spending bill has all the same problems with riders and funding levels that last year’s bills had, per Democrats.

The House Armed Services Committee will hold its markup for the annual defense authorization bill on Wednesday.

The House Agriculture Committee will mark up the farm bill on Thursday.

None of these processes may be finished until a lame-duck session. But they all begin over the next three days.

— Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan

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