Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene files motion to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson

Washington — Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia on Friday laid the groundwork for an eventual vote to strip House Speaker Mike Johnson of the gavel as lawmakers approved a $1.2 trillion spending package to avert a partial government shutdown.

Greene opposed the sweeping package, which encompassed six spending bills, and urged Johnson not to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote, calling it a “Democrat-controlled bill” in the GOP-led House.

The Georgia Republican said she has no timeline for calling the resolution, known as a motion to vacate, for a vote and said it’s “more of a warning and a pink slip.” If and when she does seek recognition, the House would have two legislative days to act on the motion. Lawmakers are poised to leave Washington for a two-week recess after votes on Friday, delaying any imminent action. The chamber could also move to table Greene’s motion, effectively killing it.

“I’m not saying that it won’t happen in two weeks or it won’t happen in a month or who knows when, but I am saying the clock has started,” Greene said. “It’s time for our conference to choose a new speaker.”

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, though, told reporters that he did not believe Johnson will be removed as speaker.

“We need a new speaker”

Johnson, who has been in the role for only five months, endorsed the spending measure negotiated with Democratic leaders and the White House, and said it included several key policy wins for his party. But Greene claimed that Johnson “handed over every ounce of negotiating power” to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats.

“Republicans had the power of the purse. This was our power. This was our leverage,” she told reporters outside the Capitol after the vote on the legislative package. “This was our chance to secure the border, and he didn’t do it.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to the media on the House steps of the Capitol after filing her motion to vacate targeting Speaker of the House Mike Johnson on Friday, March 22, 2024.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to the media on the House steps of the Capitol after filing her motion to vacate targeting Speaker of the House Mike Johnson on Friday, March 22, 2024.

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Greene accused Johnson of betraying his promises to Republican lawmakers and criticized him for breaking a conference rule that gives lawmakers 72 hours to review legislation before voting. Text of the sweeping spending package approved by the House was unveiled early Thursday morning.

“We need real leaders that know how to fight, that know how to walk in a room and don’t get rolled by the deep state and don’t get rolled by the Democrats and don’t get rolled into doing whatever it takes to maintain that power and position,” she said. “We need a speaker of the House that actually represents the people.”

She later added: “We need a new speaker.”

Asked about the prospect of Democrats opposing an effort to remove Johnson, Greene said Republican voters would not favor them coming to the speaker’s rescue.

“I don’t think that the American people, Republican voters across the country, want to see a Republican speaker that’s held in place by Democrats,” Greene said. “This is not exactly what people want.”

She teased a potential bid to oust Johnson during an interview on a podcast hosted by far-right commentator Steve Bannon earlier Friday, during which she urged him to “watch and see what happens.” 

The motion to vacate

The motion to vacate is the same tool that was used to force former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy from the role in a historic vote last year. Under the House GOP’s rules, a single member could trigger a vote of no confidence in the speaker, which Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida, did after McCarthy relied on Democrats to pass a government funding bill in early October and keep federal agencies operating. 

Gaetz and seven other Republican lawmakers voted with all Democrats to oust McCarthy, marking the first time a speaker was removed in a no-confidence vote. McCarthy’s removal left the House without a speaker, and the GOP conference without a leader, for weeks, as Republicans struggled to coalesce behind a successor who could unite the fractured party.

Johnson eventually emerged as McCarty’s replacement, and he won support from all 220 Republicans who cast ballots for speaker. His election ended a chaotic three-week span that brought legislative business in the House to a standstill and left the GOP conference bruised. 

It’s unclear whether House Republicans have the appetite for another attempt to boot the speaker, which, if Greene’s motion succeeds, would come as the 2024 election season heats up. Some Democrats have indicated they would help rescue Johnson if the lower chamber voted to remove him from power.

Johnson’s decision to work with Democrats on the latest spending package, and support for other bipartisan spending measures, puts him on a similar path as his predecessor, as both have weathered criticism from far-right members of the GOP conference who accused them of ceding too much power to Democrats. 

The latest plan that triggered Greene’s motion was approved by a vote of 286 to 134. It funds roughly three-quarters of the federal government through September. Another package that funds the remainder of the government was approved by Congress and was signed by President Biden earlier this month.

The package included money for the departments of Homeland Security, State, Defense Labor and Health and Human Services, as well as funds for foreign operations, financial services and the legislative branch. It now heads to the Senate for a vote, which must act quickly to avoid a lapse in funding. 

Nikole Killion and Ellis Kim contributed reporting.

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