Momentum builds to oust Johnson from House speakership (2024)

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s job is in serious jeopardy as two far-right lawmakers are threatening to oust him after the embattled Republican leader proposed a complex plan intended to fund key foreign allies during wartime.

Johnson (La.) introduced a four-part proposal Monday night to decouple aid for Israel, which faced a barrage of missiles and drones from Iran over the weekend, and help for Ukraine in its fight against Russia, along with two other measures. But his angry right flank — which has for weeks threatened to wrest Johnson’s gavel — escalated its attacks Tuesday morning, also vowing to sink a procedural measure needed to consider his plan.

During a weekly Republican meeting Tuesday morning, Rep. Thomas Massie (Ky.) upped the ante when he stood and called on Johnson to resign after announcing that he had signed on to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s plan to depose him, known as a motion to vacate.


That means that if Democrats chose not to rescue Johnson, Republicans would need just a simple majority to oust their second speaker in six months, causing the House to descend further into chaos during an election year when their slender grasp on the majority is at stake. Republicans appear seriously divided not only about the possible effort to eject Johnson, but also on the foreign aid bills, especially the Ukraine aid that a strident faction staunchly opposes.

Massie said he had warned the speaker in a private conversation “weeks ago” that if the motion to oust him was called to the floor, and Democrats did not help bail him out, Republicans would be successful in removing him as speaker because “we’re steering everything toward what [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer wants.”

“The motion is going to get called, okay? Does anybody doubt that? The motion will get called, and then he’s going to lose more votes than Kevin McCarthy,” Massie said, referencing the previous GOP speaker, who lost the gavel when eight Republicans joined all Democrats to oust him in October.


“I am not resigning,” Johnson said defiantly at a news conference Tuesday, calling the threat “absurd” as Republicans are “trying to do their job.”

“We need steady leadership. We need steady hands on the wheel,” he said. “Look, I regard myself as a wartime speaker.”

The effort to remove Johnson, if Greene (R-Ga.) moved ahead, would further divide an already fractured conference that has proved extraordinarily difficult to manage. House Republicans made history by ousting one speaker in the last year and have struggled to pass conservative legislation as far-right members protest bills that don’t meet their tests for ideological purity. The GOP’s inability to compromise has weakened the speaker’s hand in negotiations with a Democratic-led Senate and White House, leading Johnson to insist repeatedly that House Republicans can do only so much with one lever of power.


Johnson called President Biden on Monday evening to brief him on the details of his proposal, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. He also read in Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ahead of time.

The speaker’s proposal, according to multiple sources, mirrors the Senate-passed $95 billion national security bill, which includes $60 billion in new funds for Ukraine, $14 billion for Israel, $9 billion in humanitarian assistance to Gaza and $5 billion to bolster Indo-Pacific allies against Chinese threats.

Johnson plans to add another bill including Republican national security priorities such as the seizure of Russian assets and a House-approved bill that could ban TikTok from the United States, among other measures. But the uproar from Republicans has sent Johnson back to the drawing board, and it’s unclear what the final text will look like.


“It is not helpful to the cause, it is not helpful to the country, it does not help House Republicans advance our agenda,” Johnson said about the disruption by his members, including the possible move to topple him.

Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) also acknowledged that managing “a small majority makes it very difficult to govern.”

Furthermore, as dissatisfaction with Johnson gathers steam, no one seems to have a clear idea of who could garner enough support to replace him. But the gamesmanship behind the scenes has begun among House members and their allies as people start to position themselves should the speaker’s chair become vacant.

Rep. Troy E. Nehls (R-Tex.), a member of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, voiced the concern of many conservatives if Johnson is tossed aside: “If it’s not him, then who can manage this conference?”


“If we’re going to identify a problem with Mike Johnson, I understand. But you have to have a solution,” he said. “There is not anybody in that room I just walked out of that can manage this conference.”

Last month, Greene filed a motion to eject Johnson after he and a minority of Republicans funded the government based on higher spending levels agreed to by President Biden and McCarthy last year.

Filing such a measure, however, does not force the House to consider it. Greene would have to move the motion under special rules triggering a House vote in 48 hours. She would not commit Tuesday to a timeline to force a vote, something that she solely controls.

“I think it was significant that [Massie] co-sponsored the motion to vacate. And it also lets people know this is a lot more serious than people realize,” Greene said.


Besides Greene, just two other Republicans are needed to oust the speaker — one more than has publicly declared they would do so. But the margin narrows to one besides Greene on Friday, when Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) is planning to resign and the GOP will have a one-seat majority.

Greene claimed that there are more Republicans who oppose Johnson than the eight who voted to remove McCarthy, though she wouldn’t name them. She declared that resigning is “really the best choice” for the speaker because otherwise Johnson would have to rely on Democrats to keep his gavel.

“That would not be a sustainable position for our entire conference because we want a Republican speaker, not a Democrat speaker,” she told reporters.

Democrats have indicated that they may be willing to save Johnson’s job if it came to that, but much depends on the final text of his foreign aid package. They helped tank McCarthy’s speakership last fall after the former speaker refused to ask for their help. They largely trust Johnson, however, to keep his word, and they respect him for recognizing that compromise is necessary to ensure that high-priority bills land on the president’s desk.


Many Republicans left Tuesday’s meeting frustrated that their colleagues are once again pushing to derail the legislative process and that they may have to rely on the minority party to govern. Republicans are privately griping about what it means to be a conservative lawmaker under such circ*mstances — and the dysfunction has made some so angry that more members are privately telling colleagues they may retire.

Conservatives complained about a single member having the power to set demands and dangle threats over the speaker, a condition McCarthy grudgingly accepted to secure the job.

Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.) argued that such an extreme move was created for situations in which the House leader was caught in scandal or had committed a crime — “not this. Not someone being so deliberative and working as hard as [Johnson] can. … I think it’s dead wrong.”


“The last thing this country needs is to throw a speaker out, although I disagree with what he’s doing. … I wouldn’t put the country through that,” said Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.), a member of the Freedom Caucus.

Meanwhile, four chairs of House national security committees and a subcommittee issued a statement in favor of the Johnson package. They are part of a faction of the Republican conference advocating for foreign policy aid that is often drowned out by the naysayers.

“There is nothing our adversaries would love more than if Congress were to fail to pass critical national security aid,” Reps. Michael McCaul (Tex.), Mike D. Rogers (Ala.), Michael R. Turner (Ohio), Tom Cole (Okla.) and Ken Calvert (Calif.) said in the statement.

But the way forward on the foreign aid bills is also murky.

Johnson had delayed for weeks making a decision on the Senate-passed $95 billion national security bill providing military support for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. He has tried to thread a delicate needle by allocating funding for Ukraine, promising to address border security and attempting to appease some on his right flank.

But his effort has fallen largely flat. The speaker is far short of the Republican votes needed to pass the procedural vote, known as a rule, to later this week consider the legislation. Some Republicans are angry that after months of saying border security is the No. 1 priority — despite rejecting an opportunity to consider a bipartisan border security bill earlier this year — the Johnson plan doesn’t include it.

The speaker, however, indicated that his proposal could either add border language to a foreign aid bill or allow such language to be offered as an amendment.

Democrats have signaled they will help pass the procedural motion needed to consider the foreign aid bills, but only if those measures are identical to the Senate-approved package. They’ve expressed similar sentiments about saving Johnson’s job if he moves a robust foreign aid bill. But the situation is extremely fluid, and anything could happen.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday morning that Democrats would not support “a penny less” than what’s currently in the Senate bill for humanitarian relief. Democrats have been told that Johnson’s bill will include $9 billion in humanitarian aid, the same amount as in the Senate bill, but they’re waiting to see the text before communicating a path forward. Republican aides confirmed that humanitarian aid is expected to be in the bill.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby echoed House Democrats, noting that the Pentagon is waiting for more details before announcing whether it backs Johnson’s plan. At first blush, he said, “it looks like it addresses our needs.”

Momentum builds to oust Johnson from House speakership (2024)


What is the meaning of Speaker of the House? ›

The Speaker of the House acts as the leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Every two years, the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives vote on the first day of each new Congress. Both of the major political parties nominate one candidate for the position of Speaker.

What powers does the Speaker of the House have? ›

Role of Speaker The Speaker is the presiding officer of the House and is charged with numerous duties and responsibilities by law and by the House rules. As the presiding officer of the House, the Speaker maintains order, manages its proceedings, and governs the administration of its business. Manual Sec.

How many speakers of the House are there? ›

The Constitution does not require the speaker to be an incumbent member of the House, although every speaker thus far has been. Altogether, 56 individuals, from 24 states, have served as speaker of the House.

What is the name of the Speaker of the House of Representatives now in 2024? › Congressman Mike Johnson (LA-04) is elected Speaker of the House. Discover how Congress makes laws, schedule a school tour, & more.


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