Marjorie Taylor Greene files surprise motion to oust Speaker Johnson, a sign of growing revolt from the right

Mar 25, 2024, 6:13 AM | Updated: 12:17 pm

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene...

participates in a House Oversight Committee hearing on September 28, 2023 in Washington. Mandatory Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images via CNN Newsource

(CNN) — GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia on Friday filed a motion to oust Mike Johnson from the House Speaker role, according to sources familiar with the matter, amid anger about the government funding bill from the House Republican Conference’s right flank.

The House would have to consider Greene’s motion within two legislative days after she is recognized. The chamber is heading for a two-week recess, and Greene told reporters she would not call up the resolution Friday, which means the clock to force a vote has not yet started.

Greene’s motion is the most strident challenge to the Louisiana Republican’s leadership to date, and is a sign of a growing revolt from the right.

The effort is a significant escalation of the inter-party divisions that have grown increasingly contentious since Johnson took over the speaker’s gavel last year following the historic ousting of Kevin McCarthy. Greene’s motion is the first official step toward launching that process again, a messy procedure that created a leadership vacuum and brought all House floor action to a standstill for weeks.

Johnson controls one of the narrowest margins in House history and has had to rely on Democratic votes to advance some key legislation – including Friday’s government funding package – leading to bills that reflect bipartisan compromise, which conservative hardliners reject as too liberal.

“I filed the motion to vacate today, but it’s more of a warning and a pink slip,” Greene said to reporters after filing the motion. “I respect our conference. I paid all my dues to my conference. I’m a member in good standing, and I do not wish to inflict pain on our conference and to throw the House into chaos.”

GOP lawmakers who spoke with Greene told CNN that her plan is to use the two weeks of recess when the House is not in session to figure out when to bring the motion to vacate.

Asked for a reaction by CNN, Johnson didn’t respond, dismissing the question with a wave.

Some Republicans hope House can avoid another speaker fight

After Greene filed the motion, she was swarmed by her Republican colleagues. A source close to the conversations told CNN that a number of fellow GOP lawmakers were trying to convince the Georgia Republican not to bring the motion. Two of the lawmakers who were there, GOP Reps. Barry Loudermilk and Kat Cammack, were observed to be in an extended conversation with Greene.

Shortly after Greene took the floor, GOP Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin announced that he will step down in April, months before the end of his term, raising concerns that Greene’s motion and GOP infighting could cause Republicans — who will hold a mere one-vote majority in the House following Gallagher’s departure — to lose the chamber.

New York Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, a moderate, told CNN that Greene’s effort is “idiotic” and “does not do anything to advance the conservative movement.”

Lawler added that while he doesn’t believe the infighting will cost the GOP the majority, “idiotic stunts don’t help.” But GOP Sen. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma — a former House member who maintains close ties to his colleagues in the other chamber — warned that Republicans can lose the House due to Greene’s motion.

“I think this causes real issues — real issues — for the incumbents and for our challengers out there, for the Republican Party if this goes through, because chaos in the House is 100% on us at this point, if this thing moves forward and they don’t have a speaker,” Mullin said.

On the other hand, Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, who chairs the Senate GOP’s campaign arm, said the threat to Johnson and the GOP’s slim majority “illustrates the point that the House needs to expand its majority” and will help turn out voters.

“(T)he American people are going to say, with the chaos right now in the House, it’s very important that Speaker Johnson increases his majority in the House, and that the Senate is controlled by the Republican majority,” he told CNN.

Meanwhile, Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville was sympathetic to Greene’s concerns.

“We’re all disappointed with a lot of things that are in this bill. And I know she is, as conservative she is,” Tuberville said. He dismissed concerns that the infighting makes it appear that Republicans can’t govern, adding, “We are fighting for the American people.”

Last fall, all Democrats voted alongside eight Republicans to oust McCarthy. But Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland signaled Friday that he would be open to helping Johnson if he was to take steps to put aid to Ukraine and Gaza on the floor.

“I’m not invested in the particular career aspirations of particular Republican colleagues. That’s for them to sort out,” Raskin told CNN. “But I will make common cause with anybody who will stand up for the people of Ukraine, anybody who will get desperately needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and anybody who will work for a two state solution. I’m up for conversations with anybody.”

This story and headline have been updated.

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Marjorie Taylor Greene files surprise motion to oust Speaker Johnson, a sign of growing revolt from the right