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Greene sets up potential effort to remove Johnson as speaker

Georgia Republican is angry with the speaker for bipartisan compromises on mega spending package

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks to reporters on the House steps after filing her motion to oust Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on Friday.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks to reporters on the House steps after filing her motion to oust Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., on Friday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Speaker Mike Johnson is facing a live threat to remove his gavel after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a procedural motion Friday that could ultimately force a floor vote on ousting him.

Greene, R-Ga., introduced her resolution to vacate the speaker’s chair right after the House passed a $1.2 trillion spending package under suspension of the rules, with far more Democratic than GOP support.

However, Greene did not invoke a procedure that would make the resolution privileged on the floor, so the two legislative-day clock for consideration of the measure has not yet started. The resolution would be taken up after the chamber returns from its two-week April recess at the earliest, and if successful, would throw the House back into leadership chaos for the second time in six months. 

Johnson secured the gavel following a messy, three-week process after conservatives deposed then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in October after passing a stopgap spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown. 

Greene, a McCarthy ally, wasn’t part of that October effort and worked to oppose it. But she and other GOP hard-liners are upset that Johnson, R-La., brought the compromise spending package to the floor, which they called a sellout to Democrats on spending levels as well as border and social policy.

“This will be the fall of Mike Johnson for allowing this bill to happen and not fighting and defending our southern border,” Greene said during an appearance earlier Friday on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” program. 

Johnson’s office has heralded the spending bill, which the Senate is expected to consider later Friday, as a win for Republicans. In particular, it would increase Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention bed capacity, and fund a big increase for hiring Border Patrol agents, while boosting military spending and backing Israel.

However, a majority of Republicans ended up voting against the package, with 112 votes against it compared to 101 in favor. That’s a blow to Johnson’s rule, given heavy reliance on Democrats and backing from less than half his conference.

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

To overthrow Johnson, Greene will need the help of like-minded Republicans and likely nearly every Democrat.

It’s not yet clear if Democrats will again support a motion to remove this speaker, as they did against McCarthy, though it is not typical to provide support for leadership of the opposition party. 

Some House Democrats were already making it clear Friday they had little appetite for more dysfunction in the chamber. 

“I personally intend to oppose” the motion to vacate, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., his party’s former No. 2 leader in the House, said. “I hope that we can go forward in a way where Democrats and Republicans work together. Republicans are in charge, a Republican is the speaker, but as we did today, we reached a compromise.” 

Many House Republicans also want to avoid another drawn-out leadership battle in their conference. 

Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., said House members who had sabotaged the appropriations process in that chamber by erecting roadblocks to passing bills were the ones upset about delays and compromises they forced.  

“It’s hard for me to take people seriously when they complain about the train being late to the station, the locomotive showing up bent, when you’re blowing up the tracks,” he said. 

Zinke, who said he voted for the huge package Friday to support the Defense measure, said the motion to vacate won’t succeed, as he expects a consensus of Republicans and Democrats to oppose it. 

“The speaker, he’s honest, and he’s a kind man,” Zinke said. “Firm, but honest.” 

Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., who voted in October for Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz’s resolution to remove McCarthy, said Friday that he didn’t think a similar effort to overthrow Johnson would succeed.

“I assume Mike would get a lot of Republican support and some Democrat support,” said Buck, who is resigning his seat and leaving Congress.

Procedure 

Greene is expected to offer her resolution as a question of the privileges of the House, which would make the resolution privileged on the floor and displace any other pending business. 

She can call up the resolution at any time by giving notice of her intent to call it up, though House rules allow the speaker to postpone its consideration for two legislative days, so it doesn’t necessarily have to receive immediate consideration. 

Measures raise a question of the privilege of the House if they relate to the House’s safety, dignity and integrity of proceedings, according to the House rules. These include measures relating to the House’s organization, the conduct of its members and other special privileges provided by the Constitution, such as the right of the House to originate revenue measures. 

Historically, charges against members have been considered to raise questions of privileges. During the 118th Congress, the procedure has been used to force floor consideration of various censure resolutions.

The procedure has frustrated lawmakers and has been described as a way to circumvent leadership and waste precious floor time.

Rules Committee ranking member Jim McGovern, D-Mass, described resolutions brought to the floor as questions of privilege as “a colossal waste of time.” Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., introduced a resolution in February that would require measures to be favorably reported from a committee or offered by leadership before they can be considered as a question of privilege on the House floor. 

David Lerman contributed to this report.

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