Podcast: Vote To Oust Speaker Fails : The NPR Politics Podcast Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene filed a motion Wednesday afternoon to remove Speaker of the House Mike Johnson from his job. It failed by a wide, bipartisan margin. What happens now?

This episode: political correspondent Susan Davis, congressional correspondent Deirdre Walsh, and senior political editor & correspondent Domenico Montanaro.

This podcast was produced by Jeongyoon Han & Kelli Wessinger. It was edited by Casey Morell. Our executive producer is Muthoni Muturi.

Listen to every episode of the NPR Politics Podcast sponsor-free, unlock access to bonus episodes with more from the NPR Politics team, and support public media when you sign up for The NPR Politics Podcast+ at plus.npr.org/politics.

Mike Johnson Keeps His Job — For Now

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ALEX: Hi, this is Alex (ph), clerking at the circuit court in Salem, Ore., where our office is finally dealing with its very first writ of mandamus. This podcast was recorded at...

SUSAN DAVIS, HOST:

6:58 P.M. on Wednesday, May 8.

ALEX: Things may have changed by the time you hear this. But I'll still be reminding people that the only difference between a Supreme Court and a circuit court is that a Supreme Court comes with tomatoes and sour cream.

(LAUGHTER)

ALEX: All right, enjoy the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BIGTOP ORCHESTRA'S "TEETER BOARD: FOLIES BERGERE (MARCH AND TWO-STEP)")

DAVIS: I feel like that joke crushes at circuit court judge conferences.

(LAUGHTER)

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Probably.

DAVIS: Hey, there. It's the NPR POLITICS PODCAST. I'm Susan Davis, I cover politics.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: I'm Deirdre Walsh, I cover Congress.

MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.

DAVIS: And as we're fond of saying on this podcast, things have changed since the last time you heard from us. Georgia Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene attempted to force a vote that would remove Speaker Mike Johnson from leadership, but most Republicans and some Democrats voted to block it. Deirdre, Republicans used a procedural move, something that's known as a motion to table, basically just to sideline this attempt. Break down the vote for us.

WALSH: Yeah, I mean, I think Republicans were expecting this to come up because Marjorie Taylor Greene had been dangling this out there for weeks and vowed that she would force the vote this week. I don't actually think they were expecting it to come up tonight. This happened sort of in the middle of a series of votes that were going to be the last series for the week. They were going to end the week early, and I think that's why Marjorie Taylor Greene decided to make her move.

The procedural motion to table was just to kill her resolution to oust the speaker. Democratic leaders already signaled they would vote with Republicans to table any resolution to oust Johnson. They made good on that promise. The vote was overwhelmingly to table the resolution. It was 359-43. There were 10 other Republicans other than Marjorie Taylor Greene that wanted the vote to remove the speaker. That obviously shows you that Johnson needed Democrats to remain speaker. And that's why she did this, to make that point.

DAVIS: Who were they?

WALSH: The group that voted with Marjorie Taylor Greene was a group of, I would say, mostly hard-line conservative Republicans, a lot of them members of the Freedom Caucus.

MONTANARO: Wow, by my math, that means that there were more Republicans to vote to oust Johnson than there were to oust Kevin McCarthy. That's kind of fascinating.

WALSH: Yeah, I think that's part of the reason that Marjorie Taylor Greene was trying to argue that he isn't the conservative speaker that he came in and argued he would be to replace McCarthy.

DAVIS: Well, Speaker Johnson spoke after the vote.

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MIKE JOHNSON: Hopefully this is the end of the personality politics and the frivolous character assassination that has defined the 118th Congress.

DAVIS: But, Deirdre, the reality still exists, right, that any one member at any time can continue to force a vote just like this again?

WALSH: Correct. And I don't think there's any guarantee that Marjorie Taylor Greene or someone in this group will stop doing this. I mean, it will fail. I guess the big question that we had for leader Jeffries - Hakeem Jeffries, the minority leader - was, is this a one-time deal? When he came out after the vote tonight, he basically said, you know, they agreed to vote for governing over chaos. And he said he hoped in November that the voters would vacate MAGA Republicans from the House, and he would eventually end up becoming the speaker of the House when Democrats take the majority after the election.

But he sidestepped several questions about whether Democrats could end up regretting bailing out Johnson, because Johnson right after the vote said he has this conservative agenda that he's moving forward on. And there are a lot of things that he wants to do, even though there's just six months before the election, that are things that Democrats don't want to do.

DAVIS: Domenico, it is pretty stunning to watch what is essentially a rank-and-file lawmaker, Marjorie Taylor Greene - gets a lot of attention because she's very provocative, but she's a junior lawmaker - not only going up against her party leadership, but very clearly going against the will of Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee for president, who she has been very loyal to in the past.

MONTANARO: Yeah, just today, Trump put a post out on Truth Social, his social media platform, saying that it was not the time to try to oust Johnson. He said, I absolutely love Marjorie Taylor Greene. She's got Spirit, capital S. She's got Fight, capital F. And I believe she'll be around and on our side for a long time to come. However, right now, Republicans have to be fighting radical left Democrats and all the damage they've done to our country - etc., etc. - saying now is not the right time to go after Johnson and that maybe at some point it would be, but he doesn't want it to hurt his election prospects overall. And, you know, there are people who will say that this election is about, you know, sort of centrist, mainstream politics versus fringe and extreme. And whichever one, whichever side can be pitted as most polar will be the one that loses.

DAVIS: All right, let's take a quick break. And we'll talk more about what comes after this when we get back.

DAVIS: And we're back. And, Domenico, on that now outdated but very good podcast we did earlier today on this exact situation, we were talking about the broader point that the House majority is very much in play in November. And politically, it would seem to be a bit of a gift to Democrats, who are trying to make the case that they are the party that is more responsible at the act of governing.

MONTANARO: Yeah, and you have a speaker-in-waiting in Hakeem Jeffries, whenever Democrats were to take the majority, essentially saying that the Democrats are essentially running the government right now - kind of boasting a little bit over the weekend on "60 Minutes," saying that the party is essentially functioning as the majority right now because Republicans are so in chaos and not able to get anything through on their own that they need Democrats' help. And you saw that once again with Jefferies here and the Democrats kind of bailing out Johnson. And part of that has to be a play politically to look like the kind of party of normal, and not the party that's trying to continue to oust speakers over and over again, and try to paint themselves as trying to get things done and aiming squarely at those swing districts for that.

DAVIS: But, Deirdre, Speaker Johnson is still now the first speaker, maybe ever - I can't say for certain forever, but certainly at least since the World War II era - in the modern era that a speaker has had to rely on the minority party to remain speaker. This is another chapter in the we have never been here before files. And it's pretty unprecedented. And I think it's just worth noting that he is a very different kind of speaker now.

WALSH: Right, and he owes his gavel right now to a lot of House Democrats. I mean, I think the other thing that I know we've talked about on this podcast, too, is it's rare that the speaker needs Democrats to essentially get anything done. Oftentimes, when he wants to bring up a bill, he has to rely on Democrats. And clearly, to pass any of the major legislation to avoid a default, to avoid a government shutdown, to fund Ukraine, he's had to rely on Democrats.

DAVIS: Do you think he's weakened by this? Or was he just by default already a fairly weak speaker because of the narrow majority that he has to rely on?

WALSH: I think in the short term, he gained some internal political capital among House Republicans because he was seen, I think, by a lot of House Republicans as standing up to Marjorie Taylor Greene. And I think a lot of House Republicans have grown tired of the media attention and the fact that she's putting a spotlight on chaos while they are just trying to get things done in such a tight majority. And they're so worried about holding onto their majority in November.

So I think he gained some, you know, gravitas among his colleagues. In the long term, I think he's weakened because, as you said, this is unprecedented. He had to rely on Democrats. And I would guess that Marjorie Taylor Greene will continue to remind the Republican base about that. But I think if he's able to continue to move ahead and isolate that group of his conference, it could give him some more confidence to keep the job. But already, there have been House Republicans questioning whether Johnson could keep the gavel.

DAVIS: After the successful effort to throw out Kevin McCarthy as speaker, there was so much bad blood within that conference. There was so many hard feelings. People were really angry. You could argue some of them are still angry. Do you feel like this action is going to sort of re-kick up that anger within the conference, especially from those members who actually do face competitive election challenges in November?

WALSH: I think it kicks up more anger at Marjorie Taylor Greene.

DAVIS: Yeah.

WALSH: I mean, there was a lot of venting just sort of like, you know, this just shows we're not one big, happy family. We want to win in November, and this isn't helping us. I mean, there was a lot of venting about the message that this sends. And obviously, Domenico mentioned former President Trump has those concerns.

DAVIS: Domenico, do you see any political winners here? I mean, you could argue that this is still a winner for Marjorie Taylor Greene. It's risen her profile in a way and with audiences that she does like to curry favor with. But beyond that, any big winners here?

MONTANARO: Yeah, but I think that it isolates her a little bit more, too, from her conference. And, you know, she shot her shot, and now what? So she doesn't have as much juice internally, I think, today as she did yesterday. And I think that that's going to be a problem in the eyes of someone like Donald Trump. You know, while he may have some warm feelings for Marjorie Taylor Greene - likes her fight, likes her spirit, like he said - he doesn't want this to come back on him. And if this does come back on him because of the chaos that continues to ensue within the Republican Party and Marjorie Taylor Greene continues to be the face, in some respects, of the Republican Party, then that's bad for Donald Trump and his prospects at winning this fall.

And really, that's all that matters to him is how he winds up looking out of all of this, regardless of who the other players are. I do think that Johnson and Democrats - you know, in the short term, Johnson for sure, you know, gets a little bit of a win. This has now passed and it's going to take another effort to try to take him out. And I think Democrats, you know, have a little bit of leverage. Although, I am wondering what they're going to be trying to push for, Ukraine funding or otherwise, even more as we head toward Election Day.

DAVIS: All right, that is it for us tonight. There'll be more on this on Morning Edition. You can check that out on your local NPR station. I'm Susan Davis, I cover politics.

WALSH: I'm Deirdre Walsh, I cover Congress.

MONTANARO: And I'm Domenico Montanaro, senior political editor and correspondent.

DAVIS: And thanks for listening to the NPR POLITICS PODCAST.

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