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Analyst: Dems, Mike Johnson, Could Form “Coalition Speakership”

If a vote happens, Johnson is just three GOP votes away from losing speakership — unless some Democrats help him.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) attends a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on April 16, 2024 in Washington, D.C.

With the potential for a “motion to vacate” the Speaker of the House measure coming closer to reality this week, some political observers are suggesting that non-MAGA-aligned Republicans and Democrats could vote for a “coalition” choice for the speakership — and that that choice could end up still being Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana).

On Tuesday, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) announced he would back Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Georgia) motion to vacate order that she submitted to the House in March. Greene did so without making the order a privileged one, which means it goes through the ordinary, slow process that any other bill does. But Greene could re-submit her motion for privileged consideration at any time, forcing the House to hold a vote on whether Johnson should remain speaker.

Massie said he would sign on as a co-sponsor with Greene to submit the order, citing his objection to aid for Ukraine, the renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and cooperative spending bills that Johnson secured with Democrats last month. Massie also urged Johnson to announce a future resignation date now so that a motion to vacate wouldn’t be necessary, thereby limiting the procedural action to allow the Republican conference to select a new speaker in a quicker manner than they did in October, when they booted former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California) from the position.

The math for Johnson to survive such a motion isn’t looking good. With Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) resigning later this week and other vacancies that currently exist, wayward Republicans in the conference would only need three votes to successfully remove the speaker from his post, presuming every Democrat in the chamber also voted against Johnson.

That may not happen, however, as at least two Democrats have already stated that they plan to block a motion to vacate vote if one happens, siding with the vast majority of Republicans who would vote against it, too, to protect Johnson.

“It’s absurd that he’s getting kicked out for doing the right thing,” Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-New York) said last month, defending Johnson because of his agreeing to keep the government funded.

As the motion to vacate appears to be an inevitable outcome, Taegan Goddard at Political Wire noted on Wednesday how Democrats and Republicans coming together to help Johnson stay in place would create a sort of “coalition” speakership, even though the GOP would still technically be in the majority.

A coalition “won’t come free,” Goddard wrote on his site. “Democrats will insist Johnson make concessions to them on important policy matters.”

“While Johnson claims to be a champion of conservative priorities, the reality is that he’ll only remain in his job past this week if Democrats bail him out,” Goddard added.

Of course, any coalition between Democrats and Republicans would require the former group of lawmakers to reconcile with the fact that he’s a far right, Christian nationalist who sought to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Johnson, for example, allowed a right-wing pastor who regularly espouses antisemitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and transphobic views, to be a guest chaplain for the House earlier this year, despite violating clear-cut rules about who could take part in the House’s chaplain program.

Johnson has also expressed a narrow view of the “Establishment Clause” of the First Amendment, claiming at one point during his career that it does “nothing more than prevent” the establishment of an official religion. Johnson also doesn’t recognize the case law built around that clause that states the amendment forbids the use of government resources to promote religions or religious dogma.

The speaker is also adamantly anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant, a report from the Congressional Freethought Caucus said in January, as well as opposed to supporting reproductive rights and the right to divorce – views he espouses owing to his religious beliefs.

“Speaker Johnson is deeply connected in political practice and philosophy to Christian Nationalism, more so than any other Speaker in American history,” that report stated. “He has spent decades working to deny, reject, and undermine the constitutional separation of church and state, including trafficking in fake histories about our nation’s founding.”