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MTG Officially Launches Revolt Against Speaker Mike Johnson

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

It’s anarchy again in the House GOP.

On Friday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) filed a motion to formally boot Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) from the office.

Greene's move, which came amid conservative outrage over Johnson's deal on a spending package to avert a government shutdown that passed Friday, threatens to throw the chamber into chaos just months after a hard-right faction ousted Kevin McCarthy from the top job.

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Due to the procedural details of the so-called motion to vacate the chair, it was unclear when exactly the vote on Johnson’s fate would be held—or if it would be held at all.

Greene did not notice the resolution as privileged, a special designation that forces a vote. If and when she does, it would give House leadership two legislative days to hold a vote on the measure.

However, the chamber was scheduled to leave for a two-week recess on Friday, so any vote on a motion to vacate would happen at the earliest on April 9.

Speaking to reporters after filing the resolution, Greene said it was time to find a new Speaker of the House.

“We've started the clock to start the process to elect a new speaker,” Greene told reporters after filing the motion to vacate. “I'm giving my conference time. I'm being respectful to my conference. But many members in my conference agree, even though it's uncomfortable, it's a process none of us want to go through, it has to happen.”

In response to the news, Johnson spokesman Raj Shah said the Speaker “always listens to the concerns of members, but is focused on governing. He will continue to push conservative legislation that secures our border, strengthens our national defense and demonstrates how we’ll grow our majority.”

While it’s unclear what will come of Greene’s gambit, even if it were just a protest stunt, it reflects very real right-wing angst over Johnson’s leadership—which has existed from the very moment he was thrust into Congress’ top job last October.

The Louisiana Republican has been stuck in the same bind as his predecessor, faced with a paper-thin majority and a dedicated faction of conservatives happy to tank any legislation that carries even a whiff of compromise.

Rep. Eric Burlison (R-MO), a member of that faction, did not immediately endorse the motion to vacate, saying, "I'm going to reflect on it"—before saying that the Johnson-endorsed spending bill that just passed "doesn't line up with anyone's goals."

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To leadership-allied GOP lawmakers, however, Greene's move already had a clear effect: reopening raw wounds from last year's bruising speakership drama.

Standing on the House steps Friday afternoon, shaking his head at a press scrum around Greene, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY) called the motion to vacate Johnson "idiotic."

"I think it does nothing to actually further the conservative agenda, and in fact, once again actually undermines the conference," Lawler told reporters.

"The American people elected a House Republican majority to serve as a check and balance to govern," he continued, "and unfortunately, what we're seeing is a continuation of what occurred last year, where some members of the conference would rather grandstand and create chaos than actually govern."

Notably, two of the Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy—Reps. Nancy Mace (R-SC) and Tim Burchett (R-TN)—both told reporters they wouldn't remove Johnson. Ironically, Greene was a staunch opponent of removing McCarthy.

While House conservatives are upset with Johnson for a litany of reasons, their anger has centered on spending bills. When Johnson agreed to a deal with Democrats to keep the government open ahead of a shutdown this weekend, hardliners saw it as yet another capitulation to the opposition and a failure to fight for right-wing priorities.

Johnson has relied on Democrats to keep the lights on in Washington with successive short-term spending patches that kicked the can down the road until a longer-term deal was reached—one, of course, that conservatives would likely hate no matter what.

Predictably, there was widespread GOP backlash to the spending deal that was considered on Friday. As Greene filed her motion to vacate on the floor, GOP lawmakers were voting against the so-called “minibus” spending package in droves.

Ultimately, Johnson failed to get a majority of Republicans to support it, meaning he relied yet again on Democrats to pass critical legislation.

That alone is a black mark for GOP hardliners; making matters worse, the spending bill vote represented the first time this Congress that GOP leadership has failed to win a majority of Republicans on a vote.

Greene’s play is similar to what then-Rep. Mark Meadows did in 2015 to then-Speaker John Boehner. Meadows filed a motion to vacate the chair but never noticed it as privileged, so no vote happened—though Boehner eventually stepped down from the job.

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In October of last year, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed the motion to vacate McCarthy as privileged, resulting in his ouster swiftly afterward.

Gaetz’s motion passed with the backing of seven other Republican defectors and unanimous Democratic support. This time around, Democrats are less likely to align against Johnson.

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY)—who recently replaced former Rep. George Santos—called Greene’s motion “stupid.” He said that if a vote to remove Johnson materializes, he would protect the speaker.

Other Democrats signaled they are open to bailing out Johnson if conservatives move forward with a vote, but their backing might have strings attached. Support from many Democrats could depend on Johnson advancing a foreign aid package with funding for Ukraine.

“The question that I think most of us are sorting through is, how do we ensure that this national security, global stability aid package gets brought to the floor?” Rep. Rep. Greg Landsman (D-OH) told The Daily Beast.

But as they left the Capitol Building Friday, House Democrats were more focused on making a point of Republican dysfunction than publicly plotting how to leverage Greene’s motion to their advantage.

“I think they are a hot mess,” Landsman said. “And for those of us who came here to govern, and for those Americans who expect everyone to behave like adults and to focus on them and govern, it's so appalling.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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