Republicans lash out at Greene over threat to oust Speaker Johnson

House Republicans are lashing out at Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) over her surprise bid to remove Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) from power, warning that it threatens to divide an already warring GOP conference ahead of elections when the House is up for grabs.

Greene told reporters she is not bringing her motion to vacate resolution to the floor immediately — “I don’t have a timeline” — but the mere idea of removing another Speaker has infuriated many fellow Republicans, who are aiming their fire at Greene.

“It’s not only idiotic, but it actually does not do anything to advance the conservative movement. And in fact, it undermines the country, and our majority,” said Rep. Mike Lawler, a moderate Republican who’s facing a tough reelection contest in New York.

It’s not only vulnerable centrists who are up in arms. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), a member of the far-right Freedom Caucus, is also rushing to the defense of Johnson, a fellow Louisianan, warning that Greene’s resolution attempts to remove the only House Republican capable of steering the GOP conference “through these very dark and challenging times.”

“I consider Marjorie Taylor Greene to be my friend. She’s still my friend. But she just made a big mistake,” Higgins said in a video posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “To think that one of our Republican colleagues would call for his ouster right now — it’s really, it’s abhorrent to me and I oppose it.”

Greene filed her motion to vacate resolution Friday as the House was voting on a $1.2 trillion spending bill — which was the catalyst for her rabble-rousing move. The congresswoman slammed Johnson for cutting a funding deal with Democrats to avert a shutdown; for giving lawmakers less than 72 hours to review the text of the bill; and for bringing it to the floor even though more Republicans voted “no” than “yes,” a breach of the GOP’s “Hastert rule.”

“Today I filed a motion to vacate after Speaker Johnson has betrayed our conference and broken our rules,” Greene told reporters on the steps of the Capitol, later adding, “This is basically a warning, and it’s time for us to go through the process, take our time, and find a new Speaker of the House that will stand with Republicans and our Republican majority instead of standing with the Democrats.”

Greene said a number of her colleagues are behind her effort to find a new Speaker — ”I’m not the only one” — but refused to disclose just how many, noting several of them likely will remain silent.

“I have support on this from others in my conference,” Greene said.

When pressed on how many GOP lawmakers are with her, she responded: “I’ve talked to many who probably won’t go public, but silently, they’re breathing a sigh of relief.”

But those Republicans were difficult to come by Friday.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who spearheaded the successful motion to vacate against former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), told Politico “I’m not going to question her decision, I’m just not ready to support a motion to vacate.” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who also voted to oust McCarthy, said he is “currently” against booting Johnson, though he echoed Greene’s frustration with Johnson’s handling of government funding.

Rep. Greg Pence (R-Ind.), an institutionalist conservative, said Greene’s gambit is another self-imposed bruise for the GOP.

“This isn’t good for the party,” he said. “When I go home, people are tuning out what’s going on in the House because of the lack of progress, the chaos that’s happening. And I’d like us to get together and work together.

“We’re moving in the wrong direction of getting together.”

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Even if Greene does take the dramatic step of forcing a vote on ousting Johnson, Democrats could swoop in and save the Speaker — a possibility that some are already forecasting.

In the weeks leading up to Greene’s announcement, several Democrats have said they would consider protecting Johnson, largely hinging their support on the Speaker moving aid for Ukraine, which has stalled in the House for months. Democrats want Johnson to bring the Senate-passed foreign aid bill to the floor for a vote, which he has refused to do, instead saying the House will craft its own legislation to send assistance overseas.

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-N.Y.), who was sworn in last month to succeed former Rep. George Santos (R) following his expulsion, told CNN on Friday he would vote to keep Johnson in the top job.

“It’s absurd he’s getting kicked for doing the right thing, keeping the government open,” he said. “It has two-thirds support of the Congress, and the idea that he would be kicked out by these jokers is absurd.”

Asked if other Democrats would join him in protecting Johnson, Suozzi responded: “I hope so.”

“I do not support Speaker Johnson but I will never stand by and let MTG to take over the people’s House,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) wrote on X.

Hard-line conservatives had dangled the possibility of a motion to vacate against Johnson for months — noting it is always on the table — as the Speaker traversed the twists and turns of the government funding process.

But no GOP lawmaker had said it was time to act, arguing that Johnson — who took the reins of a messy conference in October and has since seen his majority dwindle — has been in a tough spot.

Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.), who voted to oust McCarthy in October, said Thursday that Johnson bears “some ownership” for the spending deal and noted the buck stops with the Speaker, but he also recognized the difficult dynamics surrounding the House GOP conference.

“We’ve also got to be realistic and look at the situation that he’s in,” Crane said, later adding that “Speaker Johnson is transparent and, you know, doesn’t make promises and then not deliver on those promises.”

On Friday, minutes before the House voted on the sprawling spending package, Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), the chair of the Freedom Caucus, brushed off a question about triggering a vote on Johnson’s ouster.

“You guys ask us every day about the status of the Speaker, but I don’t think anybody here talked so cavalierly or flippantly about the Speaker a year ago,” said Good, who voted to remove McCarthy last year. “We focused on policy, we focused on actions, we focused on performance, or lack thereof. And we’re doing the same thing today.”

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