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Marjorie Taylor Greene’s stunt shows Republicans are in a death spiral

On Friday, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene pulled off her most audacious stunt yet when she filed a motion to vacate to stage a no-confidence vote for Speaker Mike Johnson. The reason for filing that motion? Johnson did what he is supposed to do: pass spending bills to keep the government open.

The move went perfectly for Greene, who has shown little desire to legislate but an eagerness for attention. It turned out to be the perfect spectacle in Congress. Greene even brought her boyfriend, right-wing media provacateur Brian Glenn, along for the action. As soon as she exited the floor, reporters, including myself, swarmed her with questions — but she waited to speak until she descended the Capitol steps so she could have her moment in front of the cameras.

Greene and other hardline conservatives hate that, despite the fact Republicans control one half of one branch of the government, they did not get everything they want and get President Joe Biden to sign it. It’s an unrealistic desire, but the far-right side of the Republican Party doesn’t seem to care.

To be clear, there likely won’t actually be a motion to vacate. Representatives Tim Burchett of Tennessee and Nancy Mace of South Carolina, both of whom voted to kick out Kevin McCarthy, told me they would be a “no” vote on Johnson, as of right now. Swing district Republicans would rather not take part in it. And even Representative Matt Gaetz told multiple reporters he did not support a motion to vacate. That makes sense, given his coup against McCarthy always allegedly had more to do with his personal vendetta against the speaker than any actual policy differences.

Conversely, as he went in for votes on Friday, Republican Representative Mike Gallagher had only a few words: “Divided government is hard.”

Gallagher could not be more different from Greene. A mild-mannered Wisconsite, he served as a US Marine Corps intelligence officer and earned a PhD from Georgetown. On January 6, he urged Donald Trump to call off the riot and he voted to certify the 2020 election results, though he ultimately voted against impeaching Trump.

As chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, Gallagher has earned praise from Democrats. He racked up his biggest success last week when he shepherded in legislation that would have forced ByteDance to sell TikTok, which received overwhelming bipartisan support. This came despite the fact that Trump opposed the ban.

Last week, Gallagher tried minimizing the daylight between him and Trump on TikTok, saying it was simply a continuation of the former president’s previous attempts to ban the social media giant. Gallagher also tried to flatter Trump by saying, “Trump may, if he gets re-elected, have an opportunity to consummate the deal of the century.”

This may have been too clever by half because in the end, Gallagher and Trump found themselves on opposite sides. But Greene, who always finds a way to promote herself, voted against the bill, saying, “I’m the only member of Congress that actually got banned on Twitter by an American-owned Twitter and China didn’t do that to me.”

Last month, Gallagher voted against impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas both when the motion failed and when it passed. Both times, he was joined by Representative Ken Buck of Colorado, the cantankerous conservative who decided last week to retire early. When I caught Gallagher going to the floor on Friday and asked him if he was worried his fellow class-of-2016 alumnus Johnson would face Greene’s motion to vacate, he said, “I don’t think so.”

After the smoke cleared on Friday following Greene’s stunt, Gallagher announced he would join Buck and resign from Congress effective April 19. Republicans had hoped to recruit him against popular Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin. He’s elected to walk away instead, and that speaks volumes.

The move means that Republicans now only have a one-seat majority and makes Johnson’s job all that more difficult, given the other vacancies in the House.

Gallagher’s move reveals just how miserable being in the House is for Republicans who want to get things done. Just two days before, the House Oversight Committee held another, pointless impeachment inquiry hearing into the president and Hunter Biden that went nowhere.

When Greene was given committee assignments this Congress (after Democrats removed her last time around), McCarthy put her on Oversight. She proceeded to post nude photos of the president’s son during hearings. That has done little to show any link between Hunter Biden’s wrongdoing and the president’s, but it has gotten her plenty of attention.

Gallagher seemed to recognise that his future in Congress would either be in the minority — and simply, being in the minority in the House sucks — or he would have to deal with Trump, with whom he has a testy relationship. As a result, it behooves someone like him to simply leave.

Inevitably, Gallagher will likely be replaced by a conservative much more married to Trump and the MAGA ideology than someone with his demeanor. Similarly, while Greene will likely accomplish little in the House, she will continue to be a darling of some Republicans and someone whom the others fear. And that creates a death spiral, since it will only entice more like her to the party and fewer Mike Gallaghers.