House Democrats Block Greene's Bid to Overthrow Speaker Johnson

(Bloomberg) -- House Democrats joined with Republicans to block a hardliner attempt to overthrow Speaker Mike Johnson, a rare cross-party alliance formed to reward the GOP leader for help securing $61 billion in aid for Ukraine.

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Yet the speaker’s reliance on opponents to maintain his leadership position leaves Johnson’s political strength in doubt. Democratic leaders haven’t committed to indefinitely supporting him and hardliners can force a new ouster vote at any time.

Eleven Republicans opposed the procedural maneuver Johnson allies used to block a vote on removing him as speaker. Overall, the House voted 359 to 43 to block consideration of an ouster.

“Hopefully this is the end of the personality politics and the frivolous character assassination that has defined” the current Congress, Johnson told reporters as he left the House chamber after the vote. “We are better than this.”

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, one of the fieriest voices on the Republican Right, forced the vote on ousting Johnson. She has attacked him for months for making compromises with President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats, and vowed to seek his overthrow after the House passed Ukraine aid last month.

House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries and other Democratic leaders announced last week that they would help Johnson block the overthrow attempt, citing his support for Ukraine aid. Traditionally, the opposition party doesn’t provide votes to maintain the majority party leader’s control of the House.

Jeffries declined to say afterward whether Democrats would come to Johnson’s rescue again, telling reporters he hadn’t “given it a thought.”

But he suggested it would depend on the agenda the speaker pursues. “The only thing we ask,” he said, is that House Republicans “further isolate the extreme MAGA wing.”

Greene has made several demands of Johnson in recent days, including a public pledge to reject future funding for Ukraine, in exchange for backing down from her campaign to depose him.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Greene stood in the chamber and announced, suddenly, that she was seeking recognition for her motion to remove the speaker.

In a packed chamber, her remarks immediately raised a chorus of boos and other exclamations from both Republicans and Democrats. She then read her lengthy motion.

The Republican House majority is so slender that, if Democrats withhold support for Johnson, just three Republican lawmakers can remove him.

Republicans already toppled their previous speaker, Kevin McCarthy, provoking a bitter succession battle that dragged on for weeks. Another leadership vacancy would risk inflaming GOP divisions just as the party seeks to unify behind an election campaign to retain their House majority and return Donald Trump to the White House.

After the vote, Trump said saving Johnson was about “fighting the Radical Left Democrats.” Ousting Johnson, he said on Truth Social, would “negatively affect everything.”

But Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, hinted his future support for Johnson wasn’t assured. “We’re not in a position” to remove the speaker, he added, “At some point, we may very well be, but this is not the time.”

And he had words of praise for long-time ally Greene.

“I absolutely love Marjorie Taylor Greene,” he said. “She’s got Spirit, she’s got Fight, and I believe she’ll be around, and on our side, for a long time to come.”

(Updates with Jeffries comments, beginning with seventh paragraph)

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