Feb 20, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: House Democrat floats Mike Johnson protection measure

Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing tortoise shell glasses.

Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images.

A moderate House Democrat is circulating a resolution to protect Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) from a potential removal attempt by one of his party's hardliners, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Centrist Democrats have floated protecting Johnson to give him room to put bipartisan legislation on the floor.

  • The resolution, authored by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), would require party leadership or a majority of either party's caucus to sanction any vote to vacate the speaker's chair, according to a copy obtained by Axios.
  • Under the current rules, agreed to by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in his quest for the gavel last January, any single member can force a vote to remove the speaker.
  • Gottheimer has sent the proposal to fellow lawmakers, according to a screenshot viewed by Axios.

What we're hearing: The resolution would be conditioned on Johnson holding a vote on the Senate national security bill or similar legislation, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The backdrop: McCarthy was removed in October after the House passed a bipartisan bill to avoid a government shutdown.

  • Some Democrats have suggested they would oppose another conservative-led motion to vacate to avoid emboldening the hardliners.
  • Others have suggested that McCarthy was uniquely distrusted on their side – and that Johnson, by contrast, has more goodwill.

State of play: Johnson is facing pressure from lawmakers in both parties to hold a vote on one of several bipartisan bills providing aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), however, has said she would introduce a motion to vacate if Johnson puts Ukraine aid on the floor.
  • Congress is also approaching several federal funding deadlines which will require bipartisan legislation to keep the government from shutting down  – which could in turn invite the wrath of the right.

Reality check: Johnson has batted down suggestions from members of his own party that they amend Republican Conference rules to make it harder to introduce a motion to vacate.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reporting.

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