May 30, 2024

WASHINGTON — A third House Republican has signed onto an effort to oust Speaker Mike Johnson from power, giving his opponents the votes they would need to remove the Republican leader unless Democrats step in to save him.

Rep. Paul Gosar, of Arizona, signed onto the “motion to vacate” authored by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, both Republicans said Friday. If brought to the floor as a privileged resolution, it would force a vote within two legislative days on whether to oust Johnson as speaker. A simple majority vote would be needed to succeed.

Rep. Thomas Massie, of Kentucky, joined the motion to vacate earlier this week but has said he doesn’t want to force a vote on it, instead pushing for Johnson to resign. The three Republicans and other hard-right members of the conference are furious at the speaker for bringing up votes to provide aid for Ukraine, particularly without U.S. border security provisions attached.

“We need a Speaker who puts America first rather than bending to the reckless demands of the warmongers, neo-cons and the military industrial complex making billions from a costly and endless war half a world away,” Gosar said in a statement Friday.

If brought to the floor, those three Republican votes would be enough to remove Johnson as speaker if all Democrats vote against him. Some Democrats have indicated they would step in to save Johnson, but Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Friday that “the pre-requisite to the conversation” about saving Johnson is that the foreign aid bills pass “in totality.”

The addition of a third Republican on the motion to vacate is a huge blow to Johnson, raising the likelihood that he is either ousted from power or that he’s saved by Democrats, which could further undermine him within the conference.

“Johnson is done,” said one Republican who supports the speaker. “It’s sad.”

Greene “has the votes,” said another Republican. The member said they believe Democrats will vote to save Johnson — especially after the way the aid packages were structured, which drew the ire of some conservatives.

Massie said the intention isn’t to force a vote to oust Johnson but instead to show their numbers and get the speaker to resign on his own. That would avoid weeks of chaos on the floor, where the House must hold consecutive votes to install a speaker, and instead allow Republicans to meet behind closed doors and choose a new leader before Johnson voluntarily vacates the chair, Massie told reporters.

“The strategy all along has been to ask the speaker to resign in a fashion like John Boehner resigned, where John Boehner cleaned the barn and said, ‘I’m leaving and you’ve got plenty of time to replace me,'” Massie said. “So, in that circumstance, we didn’t end up with the speaker-less House. … Just like when you leave a job, you give two weeks’ notice, we’re looking for Mike’s notice.”

Massie suggested that a vote to oust Johnson could result in Republicans ending up in the minority; the balance of power is so close in the House that it wouldn’t take much movement to elect Jeffries as speaker. Voting to remove Johnson would lead the House to hold vote after vote “sometimes two times, three times a day,” Massie noted. Thus voting for Jeffries just to end the chaos might start to look appealing to a handful of Republicans.

“If Johnson would do it in the manner that John Boehner did it, there’s no chance to go into the minority because it’s not fought out on the floor. … Jeffries is not on the ballot when we do this in conference,” Massie stressed. “And so that’s the goal.”

He added that he had 12 people in mind who could do a better job than Johnson.

Greene has not indicated if or when she’ll try to force a vote on the motion to vacate.

Gosar announced that he had joined the effort to oust Johnson just after the House voted to advance the package of four foreign aid bills — one for Ukraine, one for Israel, another for Taiwan and a fourth that attempts to counter China by providing a pathway to ban TikTok in the U.S. as well as other national security priorities.

Johnson called the House package of foreign aid bills “the best possible product that we can get under these circumstances,” noting that Democrats control the Senate and the White House.

He said that a discharge petition from Democrats to force the House to take up a Senate-passed foreign aid package would have “happened imminently” if the House had not acted.

“The reality here is that if the House did not do this … we would have had to eat the Senate supplemental bill,” he told reporters.