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Marjorie Taylor Greene's threat to oust Mike Johnson could backfire and allow Congress to pass more Ukraine aid

Bryan Metzger   

Marjorie Taylor Greene's threat to oust Mike Johnson could backfire and allow Congress to pass more Ukraine aid
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene is threatening to oust Mike Johnson from the speakership.
  • It could actually backfire on her — and make it more likely that Ukraine aid gets passed.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia has long been one of the loudest GOP voices against providing US aid to Ukraine, even before the rest of her party came around.

Yet the Georgia Republican's threat to oust Speaker Mike Johnson may only make it more likely that the House approves billions more in aid to the besieged country in the coming weeks.

For months, Greene had suggested in comments to reporters that Ukraine aid represented a red line for her, and that she would call up a "motion to vacate" against Johnson if he allowed any more aid to pass the House. Some Democrats, conscious of that threat, had suggested that they would be interested in protecting Johnson from an ouster if it came as a result of putting Ukraine aid up for a vote.

So by filing her resolution on Friday in protest of Johnson's handling of government funding, Greene just handed a whole lot of leverage to House Democrats.

That's because Democrats — who after all, make up the vast majority of the potential votes to oust Johnson — can now coalesce around a relatively clear and simple request for the GOP leader: bring Ukraine aid up for a vote, and we'll table any motion to vacate that emerges as a result.

That could mean voting on the $95.3 billion national security supplemental passed by the Senate in February, which includes $60 billion for Ukraine and $14 billion for Israel. Or it could mean individual votes on Ukraine and Israel aid, as Johnson has indicated he would like to see.

"I don't even care if he votes for the bill. I just want him to bring it," Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia told reporters on Friday, referring to the Senate-passed bill. "If that's the circumstance, then I would motion to table at that point."

The circumstances were far different in October, when Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida moved to oust former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Democrats were enraged by McCarthy's recent announcement of an impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, and they had a long list of grievances against the long-serving GOP leader — none of which could be easily addressed. On top of that, McCarthy made clear that he didn't want Democrats' help.

Now, House Republicans' impeachment inquiry seems to be floundering on its own, Johnson has already had to rely on Democratic votes several times to move recent spending bills, and the November election will be just 7 months away when Congress returns from its current recess.

Of course, plenty of Democrats might not want to protect Johnson. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who opposes the Senate-passed national security supplemental because of the Israel aid, indicated on CNN on Sunday that she wouldn't support him.

"I am not inclined to vote for an individual for speaker who doesn't believe in women's rights, doesn't believe in bodily autonomy, who has supported overturning a presidential election," said Ocasio-Cortez.

Yet Democrats don't even have to vote for Johnson. They just have to vote against Greene's motion to vacate by voting to table it. And it doesn't even have to be all Democrats, or even a majority of them — it just has to be enough to outweigh however many Republicans choose to join Greene.

House Democrats are likely to make a collective decision on how to approach the matter, so it's too early to say exactly what will happen. One could imagine a scenario in which House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries declares the matter to be a vote of conscience, allowing individual members to go their own ways.

It also remains unclear how Johnson will approach the situation.

Republican Rep. Mike McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a supporter of Ukraine aid, said on CBS on Sunday that Johnson has committed to holding a vote on Ukraine aid "after Easter."

Now that the cat's out of the bag, Johnson can proceed knowing that if he holds a vote on Ukraine aid to Democrats' satisfaction, his job will likely remain safe — at least until November.