Sat. May 18th, 2024

Senate Republicans on Edge as Greene Threatens to Boot Speaker Johnson

Jamie Roberts By Jamie Roberts May9,2024

Senate Republicans are anxious and frustrated about the possibility of House conservatives ousting a second Speaker in six months, warning them to avoid at all costs a repeat of the drama that ground Washington to a halt for weeks.

They worry that as Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) gets closer to putting Ukraine aid on the floor, the chances increase that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) will move to force a vote on her motion to vacate — the same mechanism used to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

For some, it’s bringing up a bit of PTSD from the three-week slog in October that left Johnson as the last man standing.

“It’s a lot. I think there’s quite a bit,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), an ex-House member. 

“I just don’t know why anybody else would do the job. If Mike Johnson proves to be inadequate, I don’t know anybody else who would even try it. The guy’s got the best diplomatic skills, he’s plenty conservative,” he continued. “But the burden of governing is very real, and I just don’t know why anybody would take that burden on for a short stint — unless they really want their picture hanging in the Speaker’s lobby.”

To say Senate Republicans were dismayed by the October episode, when eight Republicans and all Democrats made Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) the first Speaker in history to be removed, would be an understatement. The fight that followed undercut much of the work planned for the remainder of the year and beginning of 2024, including government funding. Congress needed to pass four stopgap spending bills before finally fully funding fiscal year 2024 last month.

It was Johnson’s handling of government funding — and the deal he cut with Democrats to keep the government open — coupled with his expected plan to put a Ukraine aid bill on the floor that pushed Greene to file her motion to vacate, which she said was a warning to Johnson.

Greene and other hardline conservatives were also furious at Johnson Friday for helping pass a foreign surveillance reauthorization bill without a warrant requirement for Americans’ data swept up in the process.

She hasn’t moved to force a vote on the ouster yet, but some House members think it’s only a matter of when. 

“It’s the whole concept of a bunch of little things that continue to add up,” Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) told The Hill. “It feels inevitable.” 

This idea is alarming Senate Republicans who believe Johnson is in a no-win spot given that he has no margin for error and is essentially forced to rely on Democrats to pass key items. 

“It’s just really counterproductive,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. “I know there are frustrations over there but I just think that having a governing majority that can actually get some things is really critical, particularly if your goal is to deliver results for the American people.” 

The big difference between this time around and October is the possibility that Democrats could save Johnson and spare the chamber from having to endure the saga that consumed the Capitol in the fall. 

During that stretch, three members — House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) — became Speaker nominees before withdrawing, with the House floor remaining paralyzed until Johnson finally won. 

“I think the time is ripe for Democrats to rise up and say: We’re not going to tolerate this, and Mike’s a lot more conservative than us, but we have to be a functioning body and demonstrate some seriousness on their part,” Cramer said, acknowledging that it would put Johnson in a tough spot if he had to rely on Democrats, but that it might be necessary.

“The adults have to step up at some point,” he added. 

A number of Democrats say they are willing to help save Johnson’s Speakership — but only if he puts a version of a Ukraine aid bill on the floor that is almost certain to draw Greene’s ire.

Republicans also argue that a push to oust Johnson couldn’t come at a worse time as they attempt not only to win back the White House, but keep a grip on their tenuous House majority. The House GOP holds a 218 to 213 advantage, with three GOP leaning seats sitting vacant for the time being. 

They worry that a second effort in less than a year to boot their own leader would only exacerbate what voters could view as a lack of seriousness. 

“It would be a mistake because I don’t know what you gain by going through the process again. … “It would play into the argument of chaos,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.). “Who would you put in [as Speaker]? And how long would it take? How does that help Republicans in general?”

Among those who are particularly spooked are ex-House members who’ve watched how the GOP conference has changed from afar, including Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), who left the House in 2016. 

“Yeah, back when it was just dysfunctional,” he said. “Not disastrous.”

Mychael Schnell contributed.

Jamie Roberts

By Jamie Roberts

Jamie is an award-winning investigative journalist with a focus on uncovering corruption and advocating for social justice. With over a decade of experience in the field, Jamie's work has been instrumental in bringing about positive change in various communities.

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2 thoughts on “Senate Republicans on Edge as Greene Threatens to Boot Speaker Johnson”
  1. It’s disheartening to see the chaos unfolding within the Republican party. The potential of ousting another Speaker is causing unnecessary tension and distraction. Speaker Mike Johnson has shown his capabilities, and we need stability, not constant changes. Hopefully, rationality will prevail and avoid another disruptive episode like in the past.

  2. It’s concerning to see the internal struggles within the Republican party potentially disrupting critical legislative efforts. Speaker Johnson’s leadership is being put to the test, and Senate Republicans are rightfully cautious about another tumultuous episode. Let’s hope for a smooth resolution without further division.

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