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Rep. Greene and Speaker Johnson meet for a second day as possible vote on his ouster simmers

Embattled House Speaker Mike Johnson is working to position himself as in control in the face of a looming vote for his ouster

Published: May 7, 2024, 11:56am

WASHINGTON (AP) — Embattled House Speaker Mike Johnson portrayed himself as in control Tuesday, insisting he’s not negotiating with far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as they met again at the Capitol and she weighed whether to proceed with a vote on his ouster.

It was the second day Johnson met privately with Greene, a top ally of Donald Trump, and she outlined four demands — including no more funding for Ukraine as it fights Russia and an end to the Justice Department special counsel’s legal cases against the indicted former president.

Greene is threatening to call a vote on her motion to vacate the speaker from office, despite objections from Trump himself and fellow Republicans who want to end the chaos on Capitol Hill. Another hardline congressman, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, backs her effort and has joined in the meetings.

Greene said she had “high expectations” the speaker will deliver.

“This is what people all over the country are screaming for,” Greene said Tuesday on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast. “They want to see this vote.”

The political risks are high for both the speaker, who is under criticism for relying on promised Democratic support to save his job, and the congresswoman, who could become sidelined if few other Republicans join her efforts against Johnson.

Together Johnson, R-La., and Greene, R-Ga., appear to be working on a settlement that would provide a political off-ramp to the standoff and benefit them both by preventing another messy spectacle over the speaker’s gavel.

“Look, they’ve been very productive discussions. that’s what I’ll say” Johnson said after they 90 minute meeting.

Earlier Johnson downplayed the idea that there was any deal to be made as met with the lawmakers.

“It’s not a negotiation,” he said.

Noting he has passed six months on the job, which Johnson won after Republicans ousted then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the speaker said his policy has been to have an open door and hear out the ideas from Greene, Massie or any other lawmakers in his slim GOP majority.

But in a nod of what’s to come, Johnson lashed out at the Justice Department’s two cases from special prosecutor Jack Smith against Trump — over mishandling classified documents as well as the effort to overturn the 2020 election in the runup to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack.

Johnson, echoing Greene’s claims of sham trials, called the Justice Department cases against Trump “election interference” that “has to stop” as the former president is the party’s presumptive nominee in the 2024 race for the White House.

“President Trump has done nothing wrong here,” said Johnson, who led one of the defeated president’s legal efforts trying to overturn Biden’s 2020 election victory before the bloody Capitol siege.

Johnson said the House will consider the flow of federal funds to the Justice Department and oversight of the special prosecutor’s office. “Stay tuned,” he said.

Greene is also demanding that Johnson abide by the Hastert rule, named for another former Republican speaker, that requires leaders to proceed with voting on bills only when they have support from the majority of their members.

Relying on the Hastert rule could have tanked congressional support for Ukraine since the recently approved $61 million foreign aid package did not have backing from most Republicans. It passed with Democratic support.

Greene also wants to insist on federal spending reductions championed by Massie which would require a 1% across the board cut if Congress fails to pass the regular appropriation bills by the Sept. 30 deadline for the end of the fiscal year.

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“These are not unreasonable requests,” said as she entered the midday meeting.

Afterward, she said the ball is in Johnson’s court. “It can’t drag out,” she warned.

Johnson may not be able, or willing, to resist Greene’s demands, which are likely to have support from many Republicans in Congress.

The speaker needs to show he is in control of the House and not being led by Democrats, who are in the minority but have outsized influence because they have provided the votes for much of the consequential issues this Congress.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader, has emerged as an empowered speaker-in-waiting, if Democrats win party control in November. He and his leadership team have promised to vote to table Greene’s motion, essentially saving Johnson’s job.