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Progressives Explain Why They Did Not Join Other Dems to Save Mike Johnson

The majority of the House voted to save the far right speaker from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s attempt to oust him.

Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson walks out to speak moments after a vote triggered by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene on her motion to remove Johnson as speaker fails, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 8, 2024.

The majority of Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday saved far-right Speaker Mike Johnson from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s attempt to oust him after less than seven months in the leadership position.

Johnson’s (R-La.) election to the role in October — following the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who then left Congress early — was seen as a signal of the MAGA flank’s hold on the Republican Party. However, since then he has faced criticism from Greene (R-Ga.) and others for, among other things, not shutting down the government.

Greene delivered on her threatened motion to vacate — provoking boos from fellow lawmakers — after meeting with Johnson for hours on Monday and Tuesday. The final vote to table her resolution was 359-43, with 196 Republicans and 163 Democrats backing the far-right speaker. Seven Democrats voted present and 21 lawmakers did not vote.

Ten Republicans joined Greene in trying to give Johnson the boot: Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Eric Burlison (Mo.), Eli Crane (Ariz.), Warren Davidson (Ohio), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Alex Mooney (W.Va.), Barry Moore (Ala.), Chip Roy (Texas), and Victoria Spartz (Ind.).

Addressing the position of most Democrats, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.) said in a statement:

Our decision to stop Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from plunging the House of Representatives and the country into further chaos is rooted in our commitment to solving problems for everyday Americans in a bipartisan manner. We need more common sense and less chaos in Washington, D.C.

Marjorie Taylor Greene and the extreme MAGA Republicans are chaos agents. House Democrats are change agents. We will continue to govern in a reasonable, responsible, and results-oriented manner and to put people over politics all day and every day.

Some of the 32 Democrats who supported ousting Johnson framed the vote as proof that — in the words of Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (Fla.) — the “GOP really can’t govern” and the “chaos caucus is on display.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) similarly declared on social media that “the GOP chaos caucus continues to do nothing for the American people and instead waste time infighting.”

“Speaker Johnson organized an amicus brief effort to overturn the 2020 election. He opposes abortion rights, trans rights, and voting rights,” Jayapal also said. “That’s why I did not vote to save his speakership.”

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) also explained his vote on social media, saying: “Mike Johnson is the most ideological, right-wing speaker since the 1830s. His views and values are directly antithetical to mine. He stands for everything we, as freedom-loving Democrats, proudly stand against. I will never vote to keep him in that chair.”

Congressman Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) was one of the members who voted present, which does not count for or against passage.

“Did I vote with the extremist white Christian nationalist who called a motion to vacate the speakership or did I vote to save the extremist homophobic Christian nationalist speaker to keep him in office?” Pocan said. “Neither. I voted ‘present’ on this sideshow.”