Johnson Says He Has No Plans To Make It Harder To Boot Him From Speakership

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said Thursday he had no intention to try to tighten the rules for unseating House speakers — even if doing so would’ve helped him fend off a move against him.

Earlier in the day, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said Johnson should “owes the entire conference a meeting” to talk over the speaker removal threshold. She also fanned speculation that Johnson could turn to Democrats for extra votes — not only to help pass a series of foreign aid bills opposed by the GOP’s right flank, but also to help solidify his hold on power.

Instead, Johnson posted on social media that he would not try to make it more difficult to get rid of a speaker, himself included.

“Since the beginning of the 118th Congress, the House rule allowing a Motion to Vacate from a single member has harmed this office and our House majority,” Johnson wrote.

“Recently, many members have encouraged me to endorse a new rule to raise this threshold. While I understand the importance of that idea, any rule change requires a majority of the full House, which we do not have. We will continue to govern under the existing rules.”

Republicans have been operating under a rule that allows even a single lawmaker to call for a vote on removing a speaker, called a motion to vacate the chair. In October, a small group of disgruntled Republicans used that tool to remove then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who was replaced by Johnson after weeks of turmoil. Greene filed a motion to also strip Johnson of his speaker’s gavel last month, though she’s so far held off on calling for a vote on it.

“If [Johnson] wants to change the motion to vacate, he needs to come before the Republican conference that elected him and tell us of his intentions and tell us what this rule change to the motion to vacate is going to be,” Greene said earlier Thursday.

Johnson unveiled four bills Wednesday that he hopes to see passed Saturday. They would individually fund aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, while the fourth would allow for confiscation of Russian government assets currently frozen and force the Chinese company that owns the app TikTok to divest its U.S. operations.

But amid a revolt from his party’s hardline conservative and libertarian members, primarily in the House Freedom Caucus, Johnson will have to rely on Democrats to help pass at least the Ukraine bill and possibly more. And with Greene’s threat hanging over his head, Johnson’s fate may be up to House Democrats’ willingness to vote against his being ousted.

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) played coy with reporters Thursday morning when asked about that possibility after a party meeting.

“We’re going to do what’s necessary to make sure that the national security bill gets over the finish line,” he said. “What that exactly that looks like remains to be seen.”

Jeffries has previously said he thought a number of Democrats would cross the aisle and vote against an effort to oust Johnson if he helped a Ukraine aid bill pass in the House.

In particular, Johnson threw his weight behind the $60.8 billion Ukraine aid bill Wednesday, telling reporters, “I’d rather send bullets to Ukraine than American boys.”

Johnson said he believed reports in closed-door briefings that Russian President Vladimir Putin had greater ambitions than simply conquering Ukraine and needed to be stopped. But he also cited a personal reason.

“My son is going to begin in the naval academy this fall. This is a live-fire exercise for me, as it is for so many American families. This is not a game. This is not a joke,” he said.

About $7.9 billion of the Ukraine aid package would take the form of a loan. The bill’s critics point out that the amount could be forgiven in two steps at the discretion of the president.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, who is visiting Washington for the spring World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, told reporters the form of the assistance was of little concern to Ukraine.

“We are grateful to the United States taxpayers. We are grateful to the United States government for financial support in any way,” Shmyhal said.

To get the aid bills on the floor, where they will be voted on one at a time, Johnson will likely need another favor from Democrats: their support in a vote on the rule setting the terms of floor debate.

Usually so-called rule votes are procedural and strictly party-line. If Democrats help carry the rule vote, as well as the Ukraine bill itself, that would be a big demonstration of House Republicans’ weakness, as the House usually runs according to the whims of the majority party.

Johnson could be forced to go even further in courting the Democrats, though. It’s unclear if he can even get the rule through the House Rules Committee with only GOP votes, much less get the Ukraine bill through the full chamber.

The Rules Committee is a tool the speaker uses to keep the legislative trains running on time, and is usually stacked with the speaker’s allies. Having members on it threatening to sink party leadership-approved plans is extremely rare.

A social media post by the House Freedom Caucus account accused Johnson of planning to use Democratic votes to offset Republicans on the panel who would vote against allowing the Ukraine and other aid bills to the floor.

“A Speaker has NEVER used the minority to steamroll his own party in Rules,” the post said.

Jeffries also said the question of whether Democrats would provide needed votes in the Rules Committee did not come up Thursday morning.

Democrats face a dilemma in trying not to look like they favor Johnson’s continued tenure as speaker in order to avoid a repeat of October, when it took weeks for the GOP to settle on a new speaker after McCarthy’s ouster. Many Republicans say if Democrats support Johnson, it will only inflame more GOP members against him.

Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) said GOP hardliners are simply upset Johnson is not trying hard enough to force Democrats to include border security measures along with foreign aid in these bills — something that has been a condition for Republicans since this last round of debate over Ukraine aid began.

“I think we have an integrity problem when you tell the American people the border is the hill to die on — border, border, border — and then you see more of the status quo, more of the same in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

“The American people don’t expect us to win every time. But they expect us to fight.”