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Marjorie Taylor Greene's effort to oust Mike Johnson seem even more pointless now

Bryan Metzger   

Marjorie Taylor Greene's effort to oust Mike Johnson seem even more pointless now
  • It's been two weeks since Marjorie Taylor Greene tried to oust the speaker.
  • No one on Capitol Hill seems to care.

Two weeks ago, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene forced the House to vote on a motion to remove Speaker Mike Johnson from his job.

It was only the third time in American history that such a vote had taken place, and the result was without recent precedent: most Democrats voted with all but 11 Republicans to protect Johnson's job, despite the speaker's own hard-right politics and loyalty to Donald Trump.

From the perspective of the Georgia congresswoman, the so-called "uniparty" had been exposed once and for all. And then, everyone promptly moved on.

"There's always gonna be another wreck on the interstate," said Rep. Tim Burchett of Tennessee, saying Greene's oust bid got "some publicity in the beginning, and now it's gone."

The only Republican in Washington who still seems eager to talk about it is the Georgia congresswoman herself.

"I do not support [Johnson's] leadership at all, and a lot of people don't," Greene told a gaggle of reporters on the House steps on Friday, letting out a grim laugh.

Yet moments earlier, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas — one of the few Republicans who voted to allow debate on Greene' motion — told me that he hadn't heard much of anything from his own constituents about his vote. He also sought to downplay the whole thing as a media obsession.

"I'm working with the speaker, working with the leadership team, to move things that we very much agree on," said Roy. "90% of Americans don't give a crap about any of this stuff that — with all due respect — you guys talk about all the time. I mean, they're focused on 'what are you delivering?' That vote was a was a statement or a proxy, if you will, on our lack of delivery."

In other words, the vote was mostly symbolic.

A former chief of staff to Sen. Ted Cruz, Roy is among the more eloquent of the GOP conference's hard-right faction. He's been dissatisfied with the way things have been going for a long time, and has argued — just as Greene has — that GOP leadership hasn't fought hard enough for conservative priorities in government funding bills. Johnson and his defenders counter that there's only so much that can be done with a slim House majority versus a Senate and White House that are both controlled by Democrats.

Other Republicans who voted to advance Greene's motion were much more likely to hedge when I asked them why they took those votes, insisting that they merely wanted to see a proper debate on the issue — or that they were voting against the dreaded "uniparty."

"I did not at that moment think that this was the wisest thing to do," said Rep. Eric Burlison of Missouri. "But when forced to make that vote, I couldn't — honestly, my stomach was turning — I just could not in good conscience vote with Democrats to vote down one of my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle, her privileged motion."

"I was not sent up here to be the most bipartisan member," Burlison added. "People want me to save America."

"I think I'm pretty 'based' as far as like… I mean, I'm a pretty consistent conservative," said Rep. Barry Moore of Alabama, who told me he "probably would not" have voted to throw Johnson out. "I don't get out and get into media too much, but I vote my convictions, and my district loves that."

"My voters didn't send me up here to make friends. They sent me up here to change the way this town works, so that's why I cast my vote the way I did," said Rep. Eli Crane of Arizona, adding that he "didn't think it was a good time" to hold that vote.

Motions to vacate have only been filed four times in American history, and the first three times were pretty dramatic.

In 1910, then-House Speaker Joseph Cannon called the motion himself, daring his own members to vote against him. The effort failed, demonstrating the weakness of his opposition.

In 2015 — though there was never a formal vote on the matter — hard-right House Republicans filed a motion to vacate against Speaker John Boehner, helping to spur his resignation.

October 2023 saw the first successful motion to vacate in American history, in which the antipathy of Democrats and the machinations of Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida came together to spur the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

By contrast, this month's motion to vacate seemed to be largely an afterthought, perhaps even a face-saving measure for a rank-and-file congresswoman who had overestimated her power. After Johnson allowed the passage of Ukraine aid, Democrats decided to protect him from Greene's looming ouster bid, effectively neutering the whole effort.

The Georgia congresswoman, after two days of meetings with Johnson and her co-conspirator Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, seemed to be dithering on the whole effort. In an eventual surprise twist, she forced the vote on a Wednesday afternoon, shortly before everyone left town for the weekend.

This dysfunction of the current Congress has rendered a variety of previously rare occurrences — like motions to censure individual House members or voting against your own party's procedural votes — as banal, perhaps even par for the course.

The motion to vacate may simply be the latest victim.

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