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Motion to re-vacate

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene introduces a motion to remove the House speaker

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. R-Ga., leaving the U.S. Capitol in Washington Getty Images / Photo by Alex Wong

Motion to re-vacate

Ask Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., what Republicans gained from the ouster of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last year, and he will say the change in leadership itself was worth it.

“We got rid of Kevin,” Gaetz told reporters in January.

But on Friday, as the House of Representatives passed a funding package all too similar to those of previous years, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., said it was time to make another change.

Greene on Friday filed a new motion to vacate, which could remove McCarthy’s successor, U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, from his role. Although she could move ahead with the process at any time, Greene declined to say when or if she plans to do so.

“This is basically a warning. It’s time 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,” Greene said.

Since taking over as House speaker in October, Johnson has worked to revive the practice of considering and passing single-subject spending bills—something Congress hasn’t done in almost 40 years. In recent years, party leaders have negotiated omnibus spending bills that were thousands of pages long and received little line-by-line scrutiny.

But after months of negotiations, Johnson has only partially reached his goal. Instead of passing one omnibus bill, he separated government spending into two sets of six bills, the second of which passed Friday by a vote of 286-134.

“This is a betrayal of the American people. This is a betrayal of Republican voters,” Greene said moments after the vote. “We weren’t even allowed to put amendments on the floor to make changes to the bill.”

Just eight House Republicans voted in October to remove McCarthy; the motion to vacate passed because a majority of Democrats supported it. Now, many of those eight Republicans say they can’t point to a clear change that’s come about as a result.

“I’m not going to lie to you. Not a ton has changed at least in how this place works.” Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., told me on Thursday.

Crane, who voted to oust McCarthy, joined members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus on Friday morning to express exasperation over Johnson’s appropriations package. They said it kept virtually the same spending levels as last year, lacked additional funding for border security, contained billions of dollars in earmarks, continued funding for environmental programs, and more.

“It’s a terrible, terrible deal—again,” Rep. Andy Biggs of Arizona, another one of the eight, said on Friday. “I’m not making excuses for Johnson. He had time to do a different product and he had leverage. He chose not to fight. McCarthy also chose not to fight.”

When asked if they could identify any difference between Johnson’s and McCarthy’s tenures as speaker, some of the eight pointed to slight improvements in leadership style.

“It’s played out in coming and letting us know that the move he’s going to make is going to be disappointing, but that’s what he’s going to do,” Crane said. “And if you look at the motion to vacate, there were a couple members who voted to oust Kevin because he made them promises he didn’t keep, right? I haven’t really seen Speaker Johnson do that.”

To other Republicans, the fallout of the last motion to vacate is still too fresh to begin considering a second one. McCarthy’s removal left the House GOP floundering for almost a month to find a new speaker. As news of Greene’s motion spread through the conference on Friday, Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., blasted the idea.

“Idiotic stunts like this don’t help,” Lawler said.

He called on House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., to shut down the possibility of the motion’s success.

“He should make it clear right now he’s not going to do what he did in the fall. He should make it clear he’s not going to participate in this with Marjorie Taylor Greene,” Lawler said.

The motion to vacate would need a simple majority vote to succeed. With Republicans holding an ever-shrinking majority, Democrats could make or break the vote.

Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., voted for the last motion to vacate but said he would not support this one until Republicans had a clear path forward. He’s also not closing the door on the idea.

“Today I won’t,” Burchett replied when I asked him why he wouldn’t get behind Greene’s motion. “Who’s going to be better? That’s what I want to find out. [Last time] we knew we would elect a Republican. And we thought that any Republican would have been better than what we had.”

Leo Briceno

Leo is a WORLD politics reporter based in Washington, D.C. He’s a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and has a degree in political journalism from Patrick Henry College.


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