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Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Threat to Oust Speaker Mike Johnson— and What it Means for the House

Written by Akshar Patel

Edited Rebecca Oxtot and Annika Lilja



When House Speaker and Louisiana Representative Mike Johnson compromised with House Democrats to pass a 1.2 trillion dollar spending package on March 22nd, Georgian Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to vacate the speaker’s office. Greene, a congresswoman much more conservative than most of her Republican colleagues, believed Johnson’s precarious position was beneficial to her interests to pass more fiscal budgets—since only one member of Congress is needed to bring a motion to vacate to the floor. She formally introduced the motion to oust Johnson on the first of May, after Johnson supported a long-awaited $95 billion foreign aid deal that included $61 billion to Ukraine. Greene was highly critical of this deal, stating Johnson and the Democrats he compromised with were “all about funding every single foreign war” rather than directing those funds to domestic issues, in a statement reported by the Financial Times.


Unlike the expulsion of former speaker Kevin McCarthy in October of last year due to the passing of a last-minute spending bill that many hardline Republicans thought was too large, Democrats announced they would save Johnson. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies stated House Democrats would not vote against him in a stunning break from political norms. CNN reported on the 30th of April that Greene responded to this by referring to the alliance as Johnson receiving a “big wet sloppy kiss” from the House Democrats. Even though this event threatens to shake up Johnson’s career, it is not the first conflict he and Greene have faced.


Increasingly, hardline conservative Republicans in the House like Greene have used their slim majority to get what they want out of their speaker, such as when they urged Former Speaker McCarthy to pass a smaller budget back in October or face the risk of being challenged by a motion to vacate. However, with Democratic control of both the Presidency and the Senate and the narrowest House majority in history—soon reaching one as several members resign in the near future—the prospect of Greene’s tactics achieving the policies she wants seems ever more slimmer by the day. 


It was not always like this. Initially, in the fallout of McCarthy’s ousting, Greene criticized the 19 Republicans who led the charge and voted to kick out the Californian speaker. She remarked in a post on X, "If the base only understood that [the] 19 Republicans voting against McCarthy are playing Russian roulette with our hard-earned Republican majority right now. This is the worst thing that could possibly happen.” Still, when Johnson was elected, they seemed to have a good relationship at first. As reported by The Independent, the new speaker referred to Greene and her colleague Thomas Massie of Kentucky as “close friends” in a speech on November 2nd, stating, “I don't disagree with them on many issues and principles,” when asked about the two.


It appears that this sentiment did not remain for long. In a November interview with the far-right news website The Daily Caller, she indirectly suggested Johnson should be ousted if he allowed any more funding for Ukraine to be passed, calling him a hypocrite. 


However, even though he was a former ally of the House Freedom Caucus, Johnson has a job to do as Speaker. He may personally oppose sending excess sums of money or equipment to aid Ukraine or spending more than necessary, but the political reality of the Republican Party in Congress means he can’t afford to not reach across the aisle in a bipartisan compromise. This has only infuriated Greene and her colleagues Thomas Massie and Arizona Representative Paul Gosar, who have gone to justify her actions against Johnson as fighting against the uniparty. The uniparty is a fringe theory touted by many hardline conservatives that Washington is controlled by a bipartisan elite working against the interests of the American people. Often, it has been used by diehard right-wingers to decry Republicans who try to compromise or work with the Democratic Party, and it is no different in this case.


On the 8th of May, Greene’s motion to vacate was brought to the floor. Despite her wishes, the majority of House members—Democrat and Republican—killed the motion in a 359-43 vote. As reported by the BBC, the majority of Congress members who voted against Johnson were Democrats, as only 3—including Greene—actually voted against him.


While Johnson’s career is now no longer in jeopardy thanks to the support of the House Democrats, Greene’s motion to vacate had considerable impacts on how he will act as Speaker for the rest of his tenure. Now that he has to rely on House Democrats to keep his position, Hakeem Jeffries and the rest of his party can afford to prompt more and more concessions out of Johnson—in effect, achieving the complete opposite goal Greene intended. 


Many of her colleagues, even ones as to the right as her like Matt Gaetz of Florida, have warned against a vote like this precisely due to this fact. On X, CNN’s Congressional correspondent Maju Raju reported that Marcus Molinaro of New York complained, “This is all about wanting more attention,” while Derrick Van Orden of Wisconsin quipped, “This is not a junior high school reality television show.” Even former president Trump has stepped in, stating, “Well, look, we have a majority of one, OK? It’s not like he [Johnson] can go and do whatever he wants to do,” in a radio interview with John Fredericks, as reported by Politico. 


As the Republican majority in the House increasingly gets weaker, lone members of Congress will continue to gain more power over the entire party. It remains to be seen whether Speaker Johnson can manage to keep the Republican party’s grip on the House until November.


 

Sources:


Bade, Rachel, et al. “Playbook: Trump to MTG: Give It a Rest.” Politico, 23 Apr. 2024, www.politico.com/news/2024/04/22/trump-defends-johnson-rips-prosecution-interview-00153749.


Carney, Jordain, and Nicholas Wu. “Why Johnson Is Stuck with Threats to End His Speakership.” Politico, 3 May 2024, www.politico.com/news/2024/05/03/why-johnson-is-stuck-with-threats-to-end-his-speakership-00155792.


Cudahy, Matt. “Why Was Kevin McCarthy Ousted as House Speaker?” KCRA, 4 Oct. 2023, www.kcra.com/article/why-kevin-mccarthy-ousted-house-speaker/45434269.


Freking, Kevin, and Mary Clare Jalonick. “Senate Passes $1.2 Trillion Funding Package in Early Morning Vote, Ending Threat of Partial Shutdown.” AP News, 22 Mar. 2024, apnews.com/article/congress-shutdown-budget-speaker-johnson-85dc1e93f6c49c154c02a166d0e8e784.


Kilander, Gustaf. “Speaker Mike Johnson Calls Far-Right Greene and Massie ‘Close Friends.’” The Independent, 2 Nov. 2023, www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/mike-johnson-marjorie-taylor-greene-b2440525.html. Accessed 4 May 2024.


Lee, Lloyd. “Trump Says MTG Has ‘a Lot of Respect’ for Speaker Mike Johnson, but Her Comments on a Podcast the Same Day Suggest Otherwise.” Business Insider, 12 Apr. 2024, www.businessinsider.com/trump-speaker-mike-johnson-marjorie-taylor-greene-2024-4. Accessed 4 May 2024.


Mascaro, Lisa, et al. “Speaker Mike Johnson Faces Threat of Ouster from Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.” AP News, 22 Mar. 2024, apnews.com/article/speaker-johnson-motion-vacate-marjorie-taylor-greene-3461bd8b95e718e178132ac16f36562a.


Mascaro, Lisa, and Farnoush Amiri. “McCarthy Becomes the First Speaker Ever to Be Ousted from the Job in a House Vote.” AP News, 3 Oct. 2023,


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Porter, Tom. “MTG Tears into the 19 Republicans Who Voted against McCarthy, Calls Their Rebellion ‘the Worst Thing That Could Possibly Happen.’” Business Insider, 4 Jan. 2024, www.businessinsider.com/mtg-tears-into-19-republicans-who-voted-against-kevin-mccarthy-2023-1. Accessed 4 May 2024.


Raju, Manu. “CNN Presses MTG on Pushing to Oust Speaker Johnson, despite Trump’s Wishes.” CNN, 1 May 2024, www.cnn.com/2024/05/01/politics/video/manu-raju-marjorie-taylor-green-vote-to-oust-johnson-trump-wishes-sot-cnc-digvid.


Raju, Manu [@mkraju]. “MTG’s Push to Oust Mike Johnson Prompting Sharp Pushback among Many Rs.” Twitter, 1 May 2024, twitter.com/mkraju/status/1785860143768375442?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1785860143768375442%7Ctwgr%5E01ea822224807a2da64951da3bc67571eeed9f5a%7Ctwcon%5Es1_.


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