House returns with Johnson’s speakership under threat

Written by on April 9, 2024

Photo by Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — The House is back in session Tuesday after a two-week-long Easter recess, and Speaker Mike Johnson is returning with his speakership under threat after fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion to oust him just months after he ascended to the position.

The Georgia Republican filed a motion to vacate Johnson just before the chamber broke for recess. She made the move after a vote to fund the government to prevent a shutdown — which Johnson needed Democratic votes to pass.

Greene called her motion to vacate a “warning,” adding that “it’s time for our conference to choose a new speaker.”

In the last few weeks, Greene’s criticism of Johnson has only grown — accusing him of working closely with Democrats and shifting away from Republican ideals when it comes to providing aid to Ukraine.

On Monday, she called him a “Democratic Speaker” because of his propensity to lean on Democrats to pass legislation.

“Our Republican Speaker of the House is upsetting many of our members by relying on Democrats to pass major bills and working with Dems by giving them everything they want,” Greene wrote on X. “That makes him the Democrat Speaker of the House not our Republican Speaker of the House.”

Last week, Greene said Johnson had changed, saying he worked more with Democrats than Republicans.

“Mike Johnson has completely changed his character in a matter of about five months after he has become speaker of the House,” Greene said to Tucker Carlson on his program on April 3. “…He called himself a conservative, always has been, he’s a Republican member, but yet here we are …”

She added that Johnson “has made a complete departure of who he is and what he stands for.”

“And to the point where people are literally asking, ‘is he blackmailed? What is wrong with him?’ Because he’s completely disconnected with what we want,” she said.

Asked if she though Johnson was, in fact, being blackmailed, Greene responded, “I have no idea. I can’t comprehend, Tucker.”

Reliance on Democrats’ votes led to the ouster of Johnson’s predecessor, Kevin McCarthy. He was removed from the post by Republican hard-liners who were similarly upset that he worked with Democrats to pass legislation, including an eleventh-hour deal to keep the government open last fall.

Johnson has held the position since October.

Johnson has said Greene is a friend and he is just as frustrated as she is over the GOP’s razor-thin majority and need to rely on Democrats.

“…With the smallest margin in U.S. history, we’re sometimes going to get legislation that we don’t like,” Johnson said in a interview on Fox News. “And the Democrats know that when we don’t all stand together, with our razor-thin majority, then they have a better negotiation position, and that’s why we’ve got some of the things we didn’t like.”

Greene has threatened to work to push Johnson out of the speakership if he brings Ukraine aid to the floor. Johnson has pledged to act on Ukraine aid when the House returns, as the country’s war rages on with Russia.

In the Fox News interview, Johnson said he expects to move a package including aid for Ukraine with “some important innovations” when the House returns. The speaker’s office has not shared a specific timeline for any supplemental package.

“…when it comes to the supplemental, we’ve been working to build that consensus. We’ve been talking to all the members, especially now over the district work period. When we return after this work period, we’ll be moving a product, but it’s going to I think, have some important innovations,” Johnson said.

Republicans are looking at the “loan” idea floated by former President Donald Trump, which would make aid available to Ukraine as a loan that is waivable with no interest.

Another option would be to allow for natural gas exports to continue after the Biden administration paused approvals of new liquefied natural gas export permits earlier this year to examine climate impacts. Climate advocacy groups and local activists called the move a major win after lobbying Biden to block new liquefied natural gas export terminals, saying the U.S. should not build new fossil fuel infrastructure. Johnson called Biden’s decision on natural gas exports “outrageous” and that blocking export terminals “prevents America’s economic growth.”

The Senate passed a $95 billion aid bill for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan in February but Johnson has refused to take up the legislation and is not expected to do so.

It’s not clear when and if Greene will activate her resolution to oust Johnson, which would then force the House to vote on it within two legislative days.

The two were set to speak last Friday, but the details of that conversation have not yet been made public.

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