Tuesday, May 28, 2024

House rejects Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s effort to oust Speaker Mike Johnson, but chaos lingers

by Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hard-line Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tried and failed in a brazen push to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson, but the resounding rejection by Republicans and Democrats tired of the turmoil does not guarantee an end to the GOP chaos.

One of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters in Congress, Greene stood on the House floor late Wednesday and read a long list of “transgressions” she said Johnson had committed as speaker, from his passage of a $95 billion national security package with aid for Ukraine to his reliance on Democrats to wield power.

Colleagues booed in protest. But Greene soldiered on, criticizing Johnson’s leadership as “pathetic, weak and unacceptable.”

After Greene triggered the vote on her motion to vacate the Republican speaker from his office, Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise quickly countered by calling first for a vote to table it.

An overwhelming majority, 359-43, kept Johnson in his job, for now.

“As I’ve said from the beginning, and I’ve made clear here every day, I intend to do my job,” Johnson said afterward. “And I’ll let the chips fall where they may. In my view, that is leadership.”

It’s the second time in a matter of months that Republicans have worked to oust their own speaker, an unheard of level of party upheaval with a move rarely seen in U.S. history.

While the outcome temporarily calms the latest source of House disruption, the vote tally shows the strengths but also the stark limits of Johnson’s hold on the gavel, and the risks ahead for any Republican trying to lead the GOP.

Without Democratic help, Johnson would have certainly faced a more dismal outcome. All told, 11 Republicans voted to proceed with Greene’s effort, more than it took to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy last fall, a first in U.S. history.

But by relying on Democratic backing, Johnson risks inciting more criticism that he is insufficiently loyal to the party.

And the threat still lingers — any single lawmaker can call up the motion to vacate the speaker.

Even though Trump provided a needed nod of support for Johnson at crucial moments, it’s not bankable going forward. The former president posed an idle warning about potentially ousting the speaker as voting was getting underway.

“At some point, we may very well be, but this is not the time,” Trump said on social media.

Trump also made clear he still valued Greene, perhaps his biggest ally in the House, even as he rejected her proposal. “I absolutely love Marjorie Taylor Greene,” he said as he urged Republicans to table her motion.

As Greene pressed ahead with the snap vote, GOP lawmakers filtered towards Johnson, giving him pats on the back and grasping his shoulder to assure him of their support.

The Georgia Republican had vowed weeks ago she would force a vote on the motion to vacate the Republican speaker if he dared to advance the foreign aid package for Ukraine, which was overwhelmingly approved late last month and signed into law.

But in recent days it seemed her effort had cooled, as she and Johnson met repeatedly for a potential resolution.

Johnson of Louisiana marched on, saying he had been willing to take the risk to approve the foreign aid, believing it was important for the U.S. to back Ukraine against Russia’s invasion and explaining he wanted to be on the “right side of history.”

Highly unusual, the boost from Democrats led by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, showed the exhaustion in Congress over the far-right antics. Jeffries and his leadership team had said it was time to “turn the page” on the GOP turmoil and vote to table Greene’s resolution — ensuring Johnson’s job is saved, for now.

“Our decision to stop Marjorie Taylor Greene from plunging the country into further chaos is rooted in our commitment to solve problems,” Jeffries said after the vote.

But Democrats have also made clear their help was for this moment alone, and not a promise of an enduring partnership for Johnson’s survival.

Asked about a future motion to vacate the speaker, Jeffries said, “Haven’t given it a thought.”

The move now poses its own political risks for Greene, a high-profile provocateur who has moved to the forefront of the party with her own massive following and proximity to Trump.

Greene was determined to force her colleagues to be on the record with their vote – putting them in the politically uncomfortable position of backing the speaker and seen as joining forces with Democrats to save him.

“I’m proud of what I did today,” Greene said afterward on the Capitol steps.

While reporters and camera crews crowded around Greene and ally Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., a group of other Republicans gathered on the steps trying to shift the attention away from her and make their own views known.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said of those trying to remove the speaker, “They’re pretty good at getting attention, but they have not been recognized for their ability to get things done.”

He said if they keep pushing to oust the speaker, “I think you can expect more of the same: Failure.”

Reps. Carlos Giménez, a Florida Republican, said of Greene: “She doesn’t represent the Republican Party. I’m tired of this being the face or the voice of the party and getting attention. That’s all she wants, is the attention.”

Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., called for Greene and Massie to be punished for their actions.

Had Democrats not taken the unusual move to help, the vote would most likely have ended differently for Johnson who holds one of the slimmest majorities in the House in modern times, with no votes to spare.

Last year, the House chamber was hurled into chaos when eight Republicans voted to remove McCarthy from the speaker’s office and Democrats declined to help save him.

Ousting McCarthy resulted in a nearly monthlong search for a new GOP leader, bringing the chamber to a standstill with an episode Republicans wanted to avoid ahead of the November election.

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