Democrats say they will save Speaker Mike Johnson’s job if Republicans try to oust him

Democrats say they will save Speaker Mike Johnson’s job if Republicans try to oust him

WASHINGTON — House Democrats will vote to save Republican Speaker Mike Johnson’s job should some of his fellow Republican lawmakers seek to remove him from the position, Democratic leaders said Tuesday, likely assuring for now that Johnson will avoid being ousted from office like his predecessor, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy.

Johnson, R-La., has come under heavy criticism from some Republicans for moving forward with aid for Ukraine as part of a $95 billion emergency spending package that passed this month. It would take only a handful of Republicans to remove Johnson from the speakership if the Democratic caucus went along with the effort.

But Democratic leaders took that possibility off the table.

“At this moment, upon completion of our national security work, the time has come to turn the page on this chapter of Pro-Putin Republican obstruction,” said a statement from the top three House Democrats, Reps. Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark and Pete Aguilar. “We will vote to table Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Motion to Vacate the Chair. If she invokes the motion, it will not succeed.”

The announcement from Democrats ensures that Johnson will survive the most difficult stretch of his tenure so far, which saw him struggle through internal GOP divisions to pass government funding, the renewal of a key surveillance program and aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. To do so, Johnson was often forced to rely on votes from Democrats, creating an unusual governing coalition that has angered hard-right members who say their majority is being squandered.

Greene, R-Ga., filed a resolution with the House clerk last month — called a motion to vacate — that would remove Johnson from office if approved by the House. And while Greene did not force the resolution to be taken up immediately, she told reporters she was laying the groundwork for future consideration. She had two co-sponsors, Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.

Johnson was quick to distance himself from Democrats on the issue, saying he had no conversations with Jeffries or anyone else about saving his job.

“I was laser-focused on getting the supplemental done,” Johnson said, referring to the aid package. “I’ve had colleagues from both parties come up to me on the floor, of course, and say we won’t stand for this. … I’ve not requested assistance from anyone. I’m not focused on that at all.”

Many House Republicans are eager to move past the divisions that have tormented their ranks ever since taking the majority last January. At a closed-door session Tuesday morning, much of the discussion focused on how to create unity in the party heading into the November elections.

Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., said Republicans heard from Michael Whatley, the new chairman of the Republican National Committee, who emphasized that Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, wants to unify the majority in the House. He said that’s a message that certainly helps Johnson.

“What he wants is a unified Republican majority, so my message is singing from the same song sheet as President Trump,” Barr said.

Still, Greene indicated she may move forward with the effort to remove Johnson, tweeting on X that she believes in recorded votes to put “Congress on record.” She also called Johnson “officially the Democratic Speaker of the House” and questioned “what slimy deal” he made for Democratic support.

“Americans deserve to see the Uniparty on full display. I’m about to give them their coming out party!” Greene tweeted. “Uniparty” is a derisive term some Republicans use to describe cooperation between some fellow Republicans and Democrats.

Greene announced a press conference on the issue for Wednesday. During votes Tuesday, she held an extensive conversation with House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., who said afterward that he had stressed the work Republicans were trying to accomplish as she weighs her next move.

“In the end, it’s her decision, but we had a conversation about it,” Scalise said.

The removal of McCarthy in October left the House adrift for nearly a month, unable to take up legislation as Republicans struggled to select a replacement. Republicans were anxious to avoid a repeat going into November.

“It’s huge, it’s huge, especially for the presidential election but all of us up and down the ballot,” said Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. “They don’t want another 30 days of a dysfunctional Congress, and that’s what you would get.”

Many Democrats, even before Tuesday’s announcement, had said they would consider helping Johnson, but they were also looking for direction from their leadership and emphasized that in order for Johnson to gain their support, he would need to allow for the vote on an emergency aid package focused on Ukraine and Israel.

Democrats made clear that their approach would be to table Greene’s motion, rather than take an affirmative vote for Johnson, particularly because of his role leading Trump’s 2020 election challenge in the runup to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Democrats were also wary of repeating the disorder that occurred during McCarthy’s removal. The Democratic leaders in their statement of opposition to Greene’s effort, emphasized their willingness to work across party lines on national priorities.

“We’re not looking for chaos. We’re the adults in the room,” said Rep. Ann Kuster, D-N.H.

Some Republican lawmakers, however, said the Democratic change in tactics was a sign of remorse over helping to oust McCarthy.

“I think that Democrats are realizing that they voted with the wrong, small group of individuals last time around,” said Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, R-N.Y. “Mike Johnson has shown he’s a leader. He has the ability to garner support from both sides of the aisle on issues that matter most to the American people.”


Associated Press writers Stephen Groves and Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.

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