May 8, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Democrats make no promises about bailing out Mike Johnson again

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, wearing a gray suit, white shirt and red tie, and Speaker Mike Johnson, wearing a blue suit, light blue shirt, blue tie and glasses, both holding their hands over their hearts while surrounded by other people.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Speaker Mike Johnson. Photo: Allison Robbert/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

House Democrats aren't committing themselves to saving Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) should Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) take another shot at removing him.

Why it matters: Greene caught colleagues in both parties by surprise by forcing an ouster vote on Wednesday, leading some lawmakers to fear she's not above repeated attempts.

  • "I talked to probably 30 or 40 members, nobody expected it," said one senior House Democrat.
  • The lawmaker told Axios that a "question that came up quite a bit" on the Democratic side during the vote was "how many times can she do this?"

Driving the news: Greene forced a vote on what is known as a motion to vacate against Johnson, with Republican leadership to moving to "table" – kill – the measure.

  • The measure was blocked 359-43, an overwhelming bipartisan rejection of Greene.
  • Just 11 right-wing Republicans and 32 mostly progressive Democrats voted to allow a vote on ousting Johnson, with another seven Democrats voting present.

What we're hearing: Democratic leadership, which had previously made clear they would vote to table the motion, did not actively whip the vote on the House floor, according to multiple Democratic lawmakers.

  • All they did was "let us know how they were going to be voting shortly before the vote," said one House Democrat.
  • The lawmaker said that "a lot of people who had been conflicted" about their vote were swayed to kill the measure after Greene's "absurd" speech.

What they're saying: House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), asked at a press conference after the vote what Democrats would do on potential future votes, responded, "haven't given it a thought."

  • Democrats told Axios they expect – at minimum – to huddle and hash out their party's position before another potential vote: "I think it will warrant another discussion," said the senior House Democrat.
  • Many Democrats believe Jeffries' vow to save Johnson only applies to Wednesdays' vote, with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) calling it a "one-shot deal."

What they're saying: "Everything needs to be considered on its own merits. Circumstances can change," said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), who voted to table.

  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) told Axios: "I voted to table, but I'm not a cheap date. So we will revisit this again if we have to."
  • Raskin, who also voted to table, said Democrats would "reevaluate it in terms of the political context at that moment."

Zoom in: Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) raised the idea of concessions in exchange from saving Johnson, saying "there are important things we care about as Democrats" and "that is where we can really have some leverage."

  • Balint, for her part, floated a vote on the Combating Antisemitism Act, a bipartisan bill to create a federal coordinator to combat antisemitism.

The other side: Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) told Axios he expects Democrats to keep voting down any efforts to oust Johnson.

  • "As long as it's thought that the reason for the motion is because he brought forward the [foreign aid] package, I think we're going to vote the same way," he said.
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