Mar 22, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats say they would likely rescue Mike Johnson from ouster

House Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing a dark blue suit, light blue shirt, red striped tie and glasses, walks with aides and his security detail.

House Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

House Democrats expect their members to rescue House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) on a motion to vacate introduced by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on Friday.

Why it matters: Greene has said her attempt to formally remove Johnson would be triggered if he holds a House vote on Ukraine aid — something Democrats desperately want.

  • "I think this is a great way to set up a deal on Ukraine aid," said one House Democrat, "but I think either way we'll protect him."
  • A spokesperson for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) did not respond to a request for comment.

State of play: With House Republicans holding just 218 seats to Democrats' 213, it would take only three Republican defections to oust Johnson if all Democrats voted against him.

  • That narrow margin was the undoing of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) last year, when all Democrats and eight Republicans voted to oust him.
  • Greene introduced the motion just as the House was passing a $1.2 trillion spending bill to keep the government funded through September, infuriating hardline Republicans.

What they're saying: "I think what Leader Jeffries has said is we're not going to punish anyone for doing the right thing. Today, Johnson did the right thing by funding the government," Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) told Axios.

  • Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) told Axios he would vote to protect Johnson, while Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.) said in a post on X: "I will never stand by and let MTG to take over the people's House."
  • "I'm not going to let this go to a Congress shutdown, so if my vote mattered, I would vote against the MTV," another House Democrat told Axios.

The other side: Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.), the chair of the roughly 100-member New Democrat Coalition, argued Johnson needs to learn from McCarthy's mistakes and be "cooperative with us."

  • The "biggest thing" for Democrats, Kuster said, is bringing the Senate's $95 billion Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and Gaza aid package to the floor.
  • "The ball is in his court. If he is a fair actor with us, we've got no reason to get rid of him," she added.

The bottom line: Like McCarthy, Johnson is highly unlikely to cut a deal with Democrats to prop up his speakership.

  • But Johnson also may not need saving.
  • Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), one of the eight Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy, warned that a vote to oust Johnson could lead to Jeffries being elected as speaker.
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