Apr 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Republicans panic about post-Mike Johnson meltdown

Mike Johnson, wearing a blue suit, white shirt, red tie and glasses, standing in front of blue "House of Representatives" flags.

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

Threats to remove House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) are struggling to gain traction as his Republican colleagues fear the oblivion that would follow.

Why it matters: House Republicans are vocal about not wanting to repeat last fall's chaotic, protracted speaker vacancy, with many acknowledging there may be no alternative to the current speaker.

  • One House Republican told Axios any vacancy would "devolve" into chaos, with "nobody" seen as prepared to step into Johnson's shoes.
  • "There is no one," the lawmaker said, warning that some centrist Republicans may even "go with [Democratic Leader] Hakeem [Jeffries]."

State of play: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) introduced a motion to vacate against Johnson last month, the first step towards triggering a vote to remove him as speaker.

  • Greene has said a vote on Ukraine aid – which Johnson has pledged to hold – would be the catalyst for her to force a vote.
  • That Ukraine aid vote could come as soon as next week, GOP sources told Axios.
  • Republicans hold just a two-vote majority in the House, but Democrats have said they would likely rescue Johnson – especially if he held a Ukraine aid vote.

What they're saying: "I don't see who could do a better job. I don't see who could get the votes needed ... to become speaker and then effectively lead," said Rep. Mark Alford (R-Mo.), calling removing Johnson a "fool's errand."

  • Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Texas), a member of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, said he is "not in favor of getting rid of Johnson ... because nobody wants the job. Who wants the job? And who could do the job?"
  • Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), the chair of the Republican Main Street Caucus, said he "can't imagine a name of someone who would put us in a position to be successful if we vacated the chair a second time."
  • "It would be, almost, a hopeless position," Johnson added.

The backdrop: Johnson, the former vice chair of the House GOP Conference, emerged as Republicans' lesser-known consensus choice after three of his more prominent colleagues failed to unify the party.

  • Johnson's ascension followed three weeks of infighting and internal gridlock as Republicans struggled to find a speaker nominee who could forge a 218-vote coalition out of Republicans' razor thin majority.
  • In the time since, Republicans' majority has grown smaller and their tensions have become more inflamed.

The other side: Greene told Axios, "I think who can replace him is someone that's going to stand up against the Biden administration, not pass the Biden agenda so easily, not pass bills that require Democrat support."

  • "I think we have a lot of talented people that are capable of doing that," she added.
  • But, asked if she has any specific names to offer, Greene said, "No I don't."
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