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Centrist Dems Might Save Johnson From Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Motion to Vacate

The Georgia Republican filed a motion to vacate order against Speaker Mike Johnson late last week.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to reporters outside of the U.S. Capitol Building after a vote on a funding bill that would avert a government shutdown on March 22, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s motion to vacate order against GOP Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, submitted on Friday, became more likely to succeed following an announcement by yet another Republican lawmaker that he intends to resign early, when Congress reconvenes in April.

That lawmaker’s upcoming resignation brings the House Republican conference to an even slimmer majority within that chamber. Another wrinkle in the calculations came about on Friday, however, when a Democratic lawmaker indicated that some members of his conference may actually help Johnson should such a vote occur.

Johnson has been Speaker of the House since late October, following the ouster of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier that month by a motion to vacate led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida). Gaetz and a small cadre of other Republicans were unhappy with McCarthy’s cooperation with Democrats to continue funding the government while not requiring drastic government cuts or capitulating to other GOP demands in order to do so.

Johnson, who was relatively unknown when he was selected to lead, made the same agreement with Democrats last week to keep the government open, leading to Greene’s announcement that she would submit her own motion to vacate against him. But Greene’s motion was not filed as a privileged order, meaning it will go through the usual process of being submitted to a committee, where it will likely stall indefinitely, at least for now.

Greene said that her motion served as “more of a warning than a pink slip” to Johnson. However, she also said that she could change her mind about filing it as a privileged order, stating that “the clock has started” against the speaker and that he could face a removal vote “in two weeks” or a “month.”

Congress is currently in recess, and won’t reconvene until April 9.

“I’m giving my conference time,” Greene said to reporters shortly after filing her motion. “I’m being respectful to my conference. But many members in my conference agree, even though it’s uncomfortable, it’s a process none of us want to go through, it has to happen.”

Some far right GOP lawmakers, upset that Johnson cooperated with Democrats to keep the government open without harsh spending cuts, have already indicated that they’re open to backing Greene’s order.

“I’m going to reflect on it,” Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Missouri) said regarding Greene’s action on Friday.

Republicans currently have a very small majority in the House, but that majority will shrink even further on April 19, the date that Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisconsin) said he would resign early. If Greene announces a privilege motion on her motion to vacate after that date, it would mean that she and one other Republican, assuming all Democrats vote with them, could feasibly remove Johnson from the speakership.

Doing so could create a situation where Democrats could convince two other Republicans to side with them instead, in a subsequent speakership vote, putting either House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York) in that post or another “compromise” candidate possibly until the end of the year, when the 2024 elections realign the makeup of the House. But some Democrats are indicating they won’t join with Greene’s motion to vacate if it comes up and will vote instead to support Johnson despite his far right, Christian nationalist views.

It’s unclear at this time how many Democrats might vote in that way. But after Greene’s motion to vacate order was announced on Friday, Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-New York), a centrist within the party’s conference, told CNN’s Manu Raju that he personally wouldn’t back it, and that others in his conference would vote similarly.

“It’s absurd that he’s getting kicked out for doing the right thing, getting the keeping the government open. … The idea that he would be kicked out by these jokers is absurd,” Suozzi said in his remarks.

If Suozzi’s comments are to be believed, the math on Johnson’s removal gets trickier. For every Democrat that votes to protect Johnson, another Republican would have to side with Democrats in order to oust him.

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