Updated Mar 23, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Republicans livid as chaos threatens to cannibalize House majority

Marjorie Taylor Greene

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after filing a motion to vacate against Johnosn. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

House Republicans have skipped town for Easter recess with their base enraged, their majority in tatters — and their speaker facing the prospect of a humiliating ouster at the hands of his own MAGA allies.

Why it matters: Dysfunction doesn't even begin to cover it. The Senate's passage of a $1.2 trillion spending bill at 2 am ET — narrowly averting a government shutdown — was perhaps the least dramatic development in a historic day on Capitol Hill.

In a matter of hours:

  • The Republican-led House passed the spending bill just before noon Friday and sent it to the Senate — with more than half the House GOP conference, including many furious hardliners, voting against it.
  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) — one of those hardliners angry at Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) for helping push the bill — introduced a motion to vacate the chair, calling for Johnson's removal. Her move threatens to trigger the same type of vote that ended the career of his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy.
  • Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), retiring chair of the House China Select Committee, announced suddenly he'll leave Congress next month — leaving Republicans with an astonishing majority of just one seat.
  • Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who also is retiring early, departed for the final time — but not before signing a Democratic petition to force a vote on Ukraine aid, dealing one last blow to the GOP leadership he detested.
  • House Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-Ky.) — who helped make impeaching President Biden one of the GOP majority's top priorities — indicated his fizzling inquiry will end without a vote.

Behind the scenes: Republicans were left fuming over the early resignations of Gallagher and Buck, with some suggesting it's now within the realm of possibility for the House majority to flip to Democrats mid-Congress.

  • Just last week, Johnson had said in response to Buck's departure: "I think, I hope and believe that that's the end of the exits for now."
  • One conservative told Axios: "Coming on the heels of the speaker's cave on the [spending bills], Gallagher's abandonment of his colleagues mid-fight is a real gut punch."
  • Another Republican said: "I think it's extremely unfortunate. But this is also why you don't vote to remove the speaker of the House and create chaos."

Between the lines: Frustrated lawmakers told Axios that burnout from the historically chaotic 118th Congress — which has featured multiple speaker's races, derailed spending bills and constant infighting — is very real.

  • "Normally they're trying to talk people out of retirement," one member said. "Now we're at a point where we're trying to talk them out of leaving early."

The other side: House Democrats relished the discord on the other side of the aisle. "I'm glad to be a Democrat in Congress," one told Axios.

  • Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) noted that Gallagher timed his resignation to ensure his seat would go unfilled until November: "Another sharp rebuke to the chaos-and-cannibalism caucus of Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene."

The bottom line: Amid Friday's chaos, disgraced former Rep. George Santos announced he's leaving the Republican Party to run for Congress in New York as an independent — saying the GOP was too "embarrassing."

Go deeper