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Why did Marjorie Taylor Greene file a motion to remove GOP House Speaker Mike Johnson — and what's next?

"It's time for us to ... find a new speaker of the House that will stand with Republicans," Greene said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to reporters outside of the U.S. Capitol building.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene outside of the U.S. Capitol on Friday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Marjorie Taylor Greene, the far-right Republican congresswoman from Georgia, launched an effort Friday to oust her party’s own recently elected leader, House Speaker Mike Johnson, because he endorsed a bipartisan spending deal to avoid a government shutdown.

“I do not wish to inflict pain on our conference and to throw the House in chaos,” Greene told reporters after she filed a “motion to vacate” the speakership. “But this is basically a warning, and it’s time for us to go through the process, take our time and find a new speaker of the House that will stand with Republicans and our Republican majority instead of standing with the Democrats.”

A day earlier, Greene wrote on X that “our Republican majority is a complete failure” and that she was “done” with Johnson.

What is a motion to vacate?

Johnson will not necessarily lose his job as a result of Greene’s resolution. In order to bring her motion to vacate up for an immediate vote, Greene would have had to “ask for privilege.” She did not do that Friday, so her resolution will remain on the back burner, as a threat to Johnson, until she does.

But the threat is real. Under new rules put in place when Republicans regained control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2023, any one member now can force a House-wide no-confidence vote in the speaker at any time.

The change was a concession to Greene’s ultraconservative cohort made by Johnson’s predecessor, former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in order to secure the job — which he lost just nine months later after another MAGA Republican, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, introduced a motion to vacate.

The last time a House speaker served less than a year was in 1876.

Why is Greene doing this?

Johnson was elected to replace McCarthy as House speaker last October after a contentious, multi-round process that saw various higher-profile Republicans try and fail to secure majority support.

The little-known Lousianan was seen as more conservative than his establishment-friendly predecessor. Gaetz supported Johnson’s bid and has continued to be one of his closest allies.

But other GOP hard-liners like Greene have become increasingly angry at Johnson for accepting the kind of spending compromises that are required to keep the government open and operating in a closely divided Congress. Republicans hold a razor-thin five-vote majority in the House.

The final straw, in Greene’s view, was this week’s $1.2 trillion government funding package, known as a minibus, that combines the final six appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024. Johnson endorsed the package after a marathon round of negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House. It will keep the government funded through Sept. 30.

“This is a betrayal of the American people,” Green told reporters Friday. “This is a betrayal of Republican voters. … This bill was basically a dream and a wish list for Democrats and for the White House. It was completely led by Chuck Schumer, not our Republican speaker of the House, not our conference, and we weren’t even allowed to put amendments to the floor to have a chance to make changes to the bill.”

What’s next?

Greene has previously said she would prefer a government shutdown, presumably because she believes it would force Democrats to cede to GOP demands.

But a divided Congress, with Republicans narrowly controlling the House and Democrats narrowly controlling the Senate, means bipartisan agreement is the only plausible way to pass annual spending bills.

“House Republicans achieved conservative policy wins, rejected extreme Democrat proposals and imposed substantial cuts while significantly strengthening national defense,” Johnson said in a statement. “The process was also an important step in breaking the omnibus muscle memory and represents the best achievable outcome in a divided government.”

On Friday, the minibus passed the House with more Democratic votes (185) than Republican votes (101). It now heads to the Senate ahead of midnight deadline to avert a partial government shutdown. President Biden has said he will sign the legislation.

As for Greene’s motion to vacate, it’s on hold for at least the next two weeks while the House is in recess.

The motion is “filed but it’s not voted on,” Greene said Friday. “It only gets voted on [when] I call it to the floor for a vote.”