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House Votes Overwhelmingly to Save Speaker Johnson from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Effort

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, R-La., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., are seen on the House floor before Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addressed a joint meeting of Congress in U.S. Capitol on Thursday, April 11, 2024. 

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and his allies beat back a dramatic effort by far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to oust him from power on Wednesday, ending — for now — months of threats against his speakership.

The lopsided vote to “table” or kill Greene’s motion to vacate the speaker’s chair was 359-43. Just 10 Republicans voted with Greene, seven Democrats voted present.

There were 196 Republicans and 163 Democrats who voted to kill Greene’s motion; along with the 11 Republicans, 32 Democrats voted to move forward with her motion to oust Johnson.

The vote came after weeks of threats from Greene to force the issue and after dragging her feet as it became clear she didn’t have enough support to remove the speaker. Unlike last year’s successful vote to remove former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., many Democrats had made clear they would vote to rescue Johnson, particularly after he green-lit votes on bipartisan measures to fund the government and approve Ukraine aid.

“Speaker Johnson’s tenure is defined by one self-serving characteristic: when given a choice between advancing Republican priorities or allied with the Democrats to preserve his own personal power, Johnson regularly chooses to ally himself with Democrats,” Greene said on the floor prior to the vote

During the last vote series of the week, Greene stood on the floor and announced she was filing a privileged motion to vacate the speaker’s chair, which forced a vote on Johnson’s future. She was promptly booed by colleagues as she formally announced the effort.

“This is the ‘uniparty’ for the American people watching,” she said in response to the boos, pointing with both hands at Republicans and Democrats.

Johnson allies moved immediately to “table” or “kill Greene’s vacate motion. His GOP allies were in a strong position to beat back Greene’s efforts given that Democratic leaders said on April 30 that their rank-and-file members would help dismiss Greene’s motion to vacate the speaker’s chair.

That saves Johnson’s job at least temporarily, though the fact that Democrats cast votes to keep him in power is sure to infuriate conservative activists and outside groups. And nothing would prevent Greene or any other conservative foe from forcing another vote on Johnson’s fate down the road.

While passionate about toppling Johnson, her campaign never really gained momentum among her colleagues. Conservative Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., co-sponsored her vacate resolution. And under normal circumstances, those three GOP votes would have been enough to depose Johnson given the GOP’s razor-thin majority and if all Democrats voted to remove him.

But members of both parties are still smarting from the paralysis that took over the House for three weeks last fall after Johnson’s predecessor, McCarthy, became the first speaker to be ousted from his job in the middle of the congressional term. Greene, a staunch McCarthy ally, vehemently opposed ousting McCarthy and ultimately voted no.

In her resolution, and on the House floor, Greene quoted House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., saying in a recent CBS “60 Minutes” interview: “Even though we’re in the minority, we effectively have been governing as if we were in the majority because we continue to provide a majority of the votes necessary to get things done. Those are just the facts.”

Although he signed on to Greene’s motion to vacate, Massie repeatedly said he didn’t want to force a vote to oust him and cause similar chaos, instead pressing Johnson to resign voluntarily.

Lawmakers, including many conservatives, have said they don’t want a repeat of the fall speaker fight.

The idea of Democrats stepping in to save Johnson began bubbling up over the past several months.

Moderate Democrats publicly and privately said they would vote to save the speaker, especially after Johnson helped stave off a government shutdown, pushed through the renewal of a critical FISA spy tool and passed billions of dollars in foreign aid for Ukraine after months of delays.

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