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It’s happening again: Greene moves to force vote on ousting speaker

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Another spending bill, another effort to knock off a Republican speaker.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has filed a motion to oust Speaker Mike Johnson, setting up a high-stakes vote of confidence in his leadership as conservatives lament the Louisiana Republican’s passage of a $1.2 trillion government funding deal with mostly Democratic votes. Greene might not ultimately succeed in terminating Johnson’s speakership, but she was adamant about punishing him for the spending deal he struck with Democrats.

“This is a betrayal of the American people. This is a betrayal of Republican voters,” Greene said after the funding package passed. “The clock has started. It’s time for our conference to pick a new speaker.”

Greene’s move immediately set corners of the Republican Party on edge: A presidential election and a fight for congressional control looms in November, and the last thing many in the GOP want is another internal firefight. Congress is now heading into a two-week recess sure to be dominated by questions of whether Johnson can hold on to the gavel, particularly in a chamber where the GOP holds just a two-vote majority.

Many House conservatives are angry about Johnson’s recent tendency to lean on a huge swath of Democrats to pass spending bills. But most have indicated they won’t go as far as Greene, at the moment. No other Republicans have publicly committed to support ousting Johnson yet.

And there are early signs that Democrats are open to lending Johnson a hand, though they did not do the same for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy. One Democratic lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted some in the caucus would protect Johnson and “if we get some Ukraine aid package, that might be part of a deal.”

That will represent a tough choice for the speaker, since putting up a vote on Ukraine aid could easily lead to more internal problems in the GOP — while also winning more Democratic allies who Johnson could need to protect him. Still, Johnson is publicly indicating he’s not sweating the threats to his leadership.

“Speaker Johnson 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,” said Raj Shah, a spokesperson for Johnson.

Greene, who supported Johnson’s October election as speaker, is one of several members on his right flank who have publicly soured on his leadership in recent weeks. She had hinted earlier Friday that she was considering a maneuver to force the ouster vote. But timing of such a vote remains unclear.

While Greene insisted to reporters Friday that she will trigger a vote to oust Johnson, she declined multiple times to say when that will happen. She added that she didn’t want to throw the House into “chaos” and hoped to provide enough time for conversations about who could succeed Johnson.

“I’m not saying that it won’t happen in two weeks, or it won’t happen in a month, or who knows when,” she said. She added that she believes GOP voters do not “want to see a Republican speaker that’s held in place by Democrats.”

If Greene had formally gone to the House floor on Friday and called up her resolution to try to oust Johnson, the Louisiana Republican would have had to call a vote within 48 hours. But Greene did not trigger her resolution — until she does, Johnson can sit on it. The House is poised to leave D.C. for a two-week break on Friday.

Should Greene successfully tee up the vote, he has a better chance at survival than McCarthy. Despite rising conservative angst, a number of Republicans threw cold water on the effort in the immediate aftermath of Greene’s move.

Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, one of the eight GOP lawmakers who voted to fire McCarthy, said Friday he had “no idea” what Greene was doing and would not support her effort. He predicted “if we did it today, we’d just elect Speaker Hakeem Jeffries.”

“I’m not going to question her decision,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who had prompted the vote to boot McCarthy in October. “I’m just not ready to support a motion to vacate.”

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), another of the eight who opposed McCarthy, also said she would vote no on firing Johnson. But Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), another frustrated conservative, declined to tip his hand and said only: “We’ll see.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) declined to say what he will do, continuing to focus his ire on Johnson’s government funding strategy where he’s been an outspoken critic.

If all Democrats vote for Minority Leader Jeffries as speaker during an ouster vote, assuming full House attendance, Johnson could afford to lose only two Republicans if he wants to remain in power. But Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he would oppose ousting Johnson, a sign the speaker could have bipartisan backing against Greene’s effort.

“It’s a joke, she is an embarrassment,” Jeffries told reporters. “We will have a conversation about it soon.”

Rep. Eric Burlison of Missouri, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who voted to keep McCarthy, said in an interview he isn’t sure how he’d vote for a so-called motion to vacate if it comes to a vote but understands why Greene filed the motion.

“I wanted him to be successful. I still want him to be successful. I want our conference to be successful. This is not success,” he said of the spending bill. He predicted he would receive a lot of questions about it over the two-week recess.

Nicholas Wu, Daniella Diaz, Jennifer Scholtes and Anthony Adragna contributed to this report.