The Motion to Vacate Speaker Johnson and the Impact it Could Have

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, a bipartisan vote in the U.S. House, led by Speaker Mike Johnson (R- LA), put concerns of a government shutdown to rest, at least until October. 

Passing the $1.2 trillion spending plan, which needed Democratic support to succeed, really angered some hardline conservatives in the House who were willing to shut the government down to curb spending. Now, they’re willing to remove a Speaker of their own party, again. 

“Today, I filed a motion to vacate after Speaker Johnson has betrayed our conference and broken our rules,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R- GA) on Friday immediately after the House voted to approve a series of spending bills. 

112 House Republicans voted against the resolution to fund the government through September. Now, some of them say they have had enough with Speaker Mike Johnson. 

“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,” said Rep. Greene. 

If you’re feeling Déjà vu, it’s because we’ve seen a similar situation unfold not too long ago. 

“It’s a little bit different situation, but the complaint is the same,” said Dr. Todd Belt, Professor and Director at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. 

Belt says a handful of Republicans felt betrayed after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy cut a spending deal with President Biden in the Fall. 

“The question is, will Republicans feel sold out by Speaker Johnson,” said Belt. “No Speaker wants to have this in front of them. It’s something that you want to get rid of as quickly as possible.” 

If Johnson is unable to get rid of it and the motion to vacate builds enough support, Democrats could throw Johnson a lifeline—but not without a cost. 

“They see a real strong opportunity here to extract some concessions,” said Belt.  

If the motion to vacate the chair does become a serious challenge for Johnson– and if Democrats were to support him if his job were on the line– Belt says Democrats may expect things like aid for Ukraine in return. But soon-to-be vacancies for House Republicans could mean that Johnson may need to broker a deal suitable for both parties to maintain the gavel. 

“He can only afford to lose one vote with the most recent abrupt retirements that we’ve seen. The question is, how does he appease both. If he needs the Democrats’ help, but he also can’t afford to anger his own constituency, maybe we see the Ukraine aid being packaged with that border package again,” said Belt. “That might be some way he can broker a compromise.” 

“I also think my Democratic colleagues, at least some of them, have seen that it’s important to protect the institution and not to allow the chaos that a handful of members created when they voted to vacate the chair.,” said Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R- PA). 

Pennsylvania Republicans Glenn Thompson and Mike Kelly (R- PA) voted to pass the spending plan. Thompson says the situation with McCarthy last Fall was personal and doesn’t think Johnson will face a similar fate. 

“I mean, it was really unfortunate what happened to Kevin McCarthy. It really was personal. It was inappropriate,” said Thompson. “I think Speaker Mike Johnson is doing a great job. He’s a good friend of mine, a great ally.” 

“If you don’t have a big enough majority to get your policies across the line, where else would you go? You have to go across the aisle and you have to negotiate and get a good agreement between the two parties,” said Rep. Kelly. 

Kelly says Johnson has been dealt a difficult hand. The upcoming resignations among House Republicans won’t make it any easier. 

“The Speaker’s in a very difficult position. I think we’re down to a one-seat majority. And at that point, every single vote is a vote that could keep you from getting anything done. And that’s difficult,” said Rep. Kelly.