Greene softens threat to force vote on ousting Speaker Johnson

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is softening her threat against Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), saying she will give the Speaker more time to demonstrate his commitment to conservative priorities before forcing a vote on her resolution to boot him from power.

Last week, Greene said she would “absolutely” force her motion to vacate proposal to the floor this week, citing Johnson’s track record of working across the aisle with President Biden on major legislation.

But on Tuesday, after huddling with the Speaker for more than three hours over two days, Greene backed off that threat, saying she would not commit to moving her resolution to the floor before week’s end.

“We’ll see. It’s up to Mike Johnson,” Greene said when asked if she would make good on her previous ultimatum. “Obviously, you can’t make things happen instantly, and we all are aware and understanding of that. So now the ball is in his court, and he’s supposed to be reaching out to us — hopefully soon.”

The shift in strategy came after Greene spoke by phone Sunday with former President Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee who has gone out of his way to show his support for the embattled Johnson since Greene initially filed her motion to vacate more than a month ago.

One source familiar with the conversation said Trump urged Greene to abandon her motion to vacate push, and a second source said he encouraged unity.

Greene declined to detail her conversations with Trump when asked Tuesday.

“I have to tell you, I love President Trump. My conversations with him are fantastic,” she told reporters. “And again, I’m not going to go into details. You want to know why? I’m not insecure about that.”

Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, the Georgia Republican laid out a series of demands for Johnson, suggesting she would back down from her removal effort if he adopted them.

The list includes only bringing bills to the floor that have support from a majority of the GOP conference, a practice known as the Hastert rule; committing to not passing any additional aid for Ukraine; defunding special counsels, including Jack Smith, who is investigating former President Trump; and imposing a 1-percent spending cut across the board if Congress does not complete its regular appropriations process by Sept. 30.

“I’ve been reasonable, I’ve been patient. I’m not acting for myself. I’m not asking anything for myself. What I’m trying to do is give Mike Johnson a chance to be a Republican Speaker, and he seems willing to try to do that.”

Greene said she did not provide Johnson with a specific timeline to respond to her requests, but noted “it’s pretty short.”

Johnson refused to comment on her quartet of requests, only telling reporters “there’s some good suggestions, and we’re working through some ideas.”

“We’re working through a lot of ideas and suggestions, as I said, as I do with all members of the conference as part of the process here,” he later added. “And so I’m optimistic that we can get to some resolutions.”

The extraordinary talks between the Speaker and his most vocal GOP critic have consumed much of the oxygen in the House this week.

Lawmakers arrived on Capitol Hill expecting to have to vote on Greene’s vacate motion after her vow to force it to the floor. Instead, they have been left to guess if she’ll pull the trigger or abandon the effort altogether. And if it’s the latter, what — if anything — she’ll get in return.

Adding to the muddle, Greene and her supporters have offered no specific timeline for their new vague ultimatum.

“If it does become obvious that he’s just trying to drag this out, we’ll do him a favor, we’ll do you a favor, we’ll do the GOP a favor and we’ll call this motion to vacate,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), one of the two Republicans backing Greene’s gambit, told reporters Tuesday.

He did not say when.

From a practical standpoint, Greene’s decision on whether to force a vote might be inconsequential: Only two other Republicans have endorsed her vacate motion, and scores of Democrats are vowing to rescue Johnson from her removal bid, meaning he’ll keep the gavel in either event.

“We have said her effort will not be successful,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (Calif.), head of the House Democratic Caucus, reiterated Tuesday. “We want to turn the page. We want to put this behind us, and we’ll see what happens in the future.”

Politically, however, the vote could prove to carry outsized significance. Not only would Johnson — who says he wants to remain GOP leader in the next Congress — be vulnerable to attacks that he was propped up by Democrats, but Greene, whose ties to Trump have fueled her meteoric political rise, would risk alienating the former president by attacking the Speaker he’s endorsed.

Greene’s remarks Tuesday mark the latest twist in the weeks-long saga involving her motion to vacate, which she filed more than a month ago and has dangled over Johnson’s head since.

The Georgia Republican drew headlines last week when, after weeks of obfuscation, she put a timeline on her ouster gambit, telling reporters she would “absolutely” move to force a vote on her removal resolution this week.

But her apparent walk-back on Tuesday is emblematic of the dynamics that have plagued her threat since the start: Conservative Republicans and Democratic leadership are all against the effort, making it dead on arrival on the floor, and Trump has urged Greene to stand down, putting her on a collision course with the leader of the party who helped her become a nationally known name.

“She’s not acting in the best interests of President Trump. I don’t think this is a good move six months before an election,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.), the chair of the House Freedom Caucus who voted to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in October, told NewsNation’s “The Hill Sunday” in an interview.

“Let’s focus on expanding the House majority, winning back the Senate, reelecting President Trump,” he later added. “If she were to move forward there would be a motion to table it. In other words, a vote on whether or not to move forward with a vote to vacate the Speaker. I think that would likely fail. I don’t think we would end up having a vote on whether or not to remove the Speaker actually.”

Brett Samuels contributed reporting. Updated at 4:55 p.m.

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