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Democratic Leaders Say They’ll Back Keeping Mike Johnson as Speaker

Polling shows a plurality of voters have a negative view of Speaker Mike Johnson and reject his far right views.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson arrives to give closing remarks during the Hill and Valley Forum on AI Security on May 1, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives announced on Tuesday that they would vote to stave off a motion to vacate measure against Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, a rare and questionable move that will likely prevent far right lawmakers from throwing the chamber into disarray for the second time in under a year.

When a small group of Republicans had voted in October to remove then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, nearly every Democratic lawmaker voted alongside them, leading to his ouster despite most Republicans backing him. But over the past several weeks, moderate Democrats have expressed disapproval at doing the same thing with Johnson after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) put forward a motion to vacate measure against the current speaker.

Greene’s measure, which has the support of at least two other Republicans, would remove Johnson from his post over his cooperation with Democrats to keep the government funded and to pay billions in expenditures for foreign policy matters, including support for Ukraine in its war with Russia.

Greene originally filed her measure in late March, but did not submit it as a privileged motion, which would have brought a vote to the floor right away. However, she reserved the right to change it to privileged at any point she wanted, indicating on Wednesday that she may do so soon.

“I think every member of Congress needs to take that vote and let the chips fall where they may. And so next week, I am going to be calling this motion to vacate,” Greene said.

The House partisan makeup is so slim that three Republicans, plus every Democrat in the chamber voting with them, would be enough for the motion to vacate measure to succeed. Two other Republicans have already indicated that they would support Greene’s motion.

A day prior to her Wednesday announcement, however, Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), said in a statement that they’d vote to oppose the motion to vacate Johnson.

“We will vote to table Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Motion to Vacate the Chair. If she invokes the motion, it will not succeed,” the Democratic leaders said in a joint statement.

In a statement he made to reporters, Jeffries said that efforts to oust Johnson are “undermining the well-being of the American people and preventing us from delivering real and meaningful results on the issues that matter.”

The House Democratic leader framed the vote against a motion to vacate as keeping stability in the House, adding:

House Republicans are either unwilling or unable to get Marjorie Taylor Greene and the extreme MAGA Republicans under control, and so it’s going to take a bipartisan coalition and partnership to accomplish that objective.

Democrats have for weeks demonstrated that they wouldn’t support ousting Johnson. A Politico report from last week, for instance, showcased how dozens of Democrats would step in to save Johnson from a motion to vacate measure, with moderate Democrats telling the publication that they had already “gamed out” a strategy to defeat it.

Democrats coming to Johnson’s rescue is notable given that his ideology is further to the right than McCarthy’s, whom Democrats were eager to vote against last fall.

Johnson is a noted Christian nationalist, with anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive rights views that fall well outside of what most Americans are comfortable with.

He authored a federal “Don’t Say Gay” bill in 2022 that went further than any other state measure did, seeking to forbid monetary support for any institution receiving federal funds if they recognized gender identity or sexual orientation.

Johnson believes his conservative Christian views should be codified into law, and disagrees with the “separation of church and state” that has been the standard for the country for well over 230 years.

Johnson also led the effort to stall the certification of Joe Biden’s presidential win over Donald Trump, organizing over 100 Republican lawmakers to sign an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in a lawsuit that sought to delay the certification of the Electoral College on January 6, 2021. He proudly told his colleagues he was doing so at the request of Trump himself.

Although polling shows that three in 10 Americans don’t know enough about Johnson to form an opinion on him, a plurality of registered voters view him in a negative light.

According to a recent Economist/YouGov poll, 42 percent of voters have an unfavorable view on the current Speaker of the House, while just 28 percent have a favorable opinion of him. That unfavorable rating has been climbing ever since Johnson took over the position — indeed, his current negative rating is 6 points higher than in mid-December, when just 36 percent of voters said they viewed him unfavorably.