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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene vows to force a vote next week on ousting House Speaker Mike Johnson

Published: May 1, 2024, 12:40pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said Wednesday she would call a vote next week on ousting House Speaker Mike Johnson, forcing her colleagues to choose sides in a difficult showdown after Democratic leaders announced they would provide the votes to save the Republican speaker’s job.

Speaking outside the Capitol, Greene ranted against Republican Party leaders at the highest levels and pushed back against their public entreaties, including from Donald Trump, to avoid another messy political fight so close to the November election. With her was Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., one of the few lawmakers to join her effort.

“We need leaders in the House of Representatives that are going to get this done,” said Greene, R-Ga., holding up a red “MAGA” hat from Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign movement.

“Mike Johnson is not capable of that job,” she said.

In pressing ahead next week, she said that “every member of Congress needs to take that vote.”

The standoff with Greene, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, risks throwing Republican control of the House into a fresh round of chaos as rank-and-file lawmakers will have to choose between ousting Johnson, R-La., as speaker or joining with Democrats to keep him on the job.

Johnson, in his own statement, said Greene’s move was “wrong for the Republican Conference, wrong for the institution, and wrong for the country.”

Democrats see in Johnson a potential partner, a hard-line conservative who nevertheless is willing to lead his Republican Party away from the far-right voices obstructing the routine business of governing, including funding the government and, more recently, supporting Ukraine and other U.S. allies overseas.

The Democratic leader, New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, and his team issued a joint statement this week saying it was time to “turn the page” on the GOP chaos, announcing that the Democrats would vote to table Greene’s motion to vacate the speaker’s office, essentially ensuring Johnson is not evicted from office — at least on this attempt.

“From the very beginning of the Congress, House Republican have visited chaos, dysfunction and extremism on the American people,” Jeffries said Wednesday.

“Marjorie Taylor Green is the star of the show. The show is called Republicans Gone Wild,” he added. “It is undermining the well-being of the American people and preventing us from delivering real and meaningful results on the issues that matter.”

Johnson’s public opponents are few, at this point, and less than the eight that it took to oust now-former Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., last fall in the first ever removal of sitting speaker from the powerful office that is second in the line of succession to the president. Just one other Republican, Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, has joined Greene’s effort.

Greene and Massie said they were giving their colleagues the weekend to weigh their options before calling for the vote on her motion to vacate next week. Or, they said, Johnson could simply resign, pointing to the example of a previous speaker, Republican John Boehner of Ohio, who stepped aside in 2015 when hard-liners threatened to oust him.

They listed a list of complaints against Johnson, including his leadership in securing the aid for Ukraine.

“Are you going to embrace Hakeem Jeffries like Mike Johnson has?” said Massie, before a poster-photo of Jeffries handing Johnson the gavel when the Republican first became speaker last fall.

“They’ve got a weekend to think about it, but more importantly, Mike Johnson has a weekend to think about it.”

The turmoil has gripped a House already essentially at a standstill. Johnson has been unable to command his razor-thin majority to work together on party priorities and has been forced him into the arms of Democrats for the votes needed to approve most big bills — and now, to keep his job.

Johnson had been elected by Republicans as a last-ditch consensus candidate after McCarthy’s ouster, but he courted the far-right’s ire when he led passage of the $95 billion foreign aid package for Ukraine and U.S. allies that they oppose.

Trump has given a nod of support to Johnson, who dashed to the former president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida last month to shore up backing.

Other Republican leaders, including Trump’s hand-picked head of the Republican National Committee, Michael Whatley, have urged House Republicans to hold off the removal effort before the fall election that will determine which party controls the White House and Congress.

In a private meeting Tuesday, Whatley urged House Republicans to unite around their shared priorities. He delivered the same message later in the day to Greene, telling her that trying to remove Johnson was not helpful, according to a person familiar with the conversations who was not authorized to discuss them publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was pleased the threat of ousting the speaker did not appear to be gaining traction.

“I am relieved, as I think all of America is, that the chaos in the House will be discontinued,” said McConnell, R-Ky.

Asked if Johnson should resign, McConnell said: “No of course not. I support Speaker Johnson and I think he’s done an good job under extremely difficult circumstances.”

While the Democratic leaders have said they would provide the votes to table Greene’s motion when it comes forward, essentially shelving it for now, it is not clear that all Democratic lawmakers would join that effort.

At their own private meeting this week, some Democrats objected to helping Johnson, particularly after he helped lead Trump’s legal challenges to the 2020 presidential election won by Democrat Joe Biden. Party leaders have said their support for sidelining Greene’s resolution is not the same as a vote for Johnson, and that it only applies to this current effort to oust the speaker.

Jeffries said each lawmaker will chose his or her own position in what is often referred to as a vote of conscience and that any future efforts by Republicans to try to remove the speaker will be taken under consideration, one step at a time.