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Mike Johnson Survives Ousting – But What Did It Cost?

Strategic implications of removing the speaker.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) brought her efforts to oust Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) to the floor late yesterday, May 8. Rather than facing a full vote, however, the motion was tabled with overwhelming support from both the GOP and Democrats. In a 359 to 43 vote, Greene’s efforts were quashed, with just 32 Republicans voting against.

Mr. Johnson breathed a sigh of relief, saying, “Hopefully, this is the end of the personality politics and the frivolous character assassination that has defined the 118th Congress. It’s regrettable, it’s not who we are as Americans, and we’re better than this. We need to get beyond it.”

But while it may appear this was a simple case of the House working in unison, other factors and machinations were almost certainly at play.

Dismissed With Trump Backing

It appears that former President Donald Trump saw potential disunity in the House as detrimental to his re-election hopes this November. Despite his past support for Greene, he made his thoughts and feelings known in advance of the bill’s introduction:

“I absolutely love Marjorie Taylor Greene. She’s got Spirit, she’s got Fight, 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 the Radical Left Democrats, and all the Damage they have done to our Country. With a Majority of One, shortly growing to three or four, we’re not in a position of voting on a Motion to Vacate. At some point, we may very well be, but this is not the time.”

“But if we show DISUNITY, which will be portrayed as CHAOS, it will negatively affect everything,” he continued in his Truth Social thread. “Mike Johnson is a good man who is trying very hard. I also wish certain things were done over the last period of two months, but we will get them done, together… It is my request that Republicans vote for THE MOTION TO TABLE… We WILL WIN BIG – AND IT WILL BE SOON!”

New Banner Political Power PlaysAnd the former president may well have a point from a tactical strategy perspective.

As he leads in the polling, Mr. Trump will be wary of anything that upsets that trajectory or risks handing a significant victory to DC Democrats in Congress. After all, if – as polls indicate – he is on track to win the November election, his tenure in office could be born into the chaos of gaining the presidency but losing the legislature; effectively making him a lame-duck president on his first day back in office.

Trump seems all too aware that if he is to create a lasting legacy, he needs more than just a pen and a phone.

Democrat Narrative on Johnson and the GOP House

While House Democrats will no doubt claim a minor victory in ensuring the current speaker serves at their pleasure, a successful ousting would have perhaps provided a bevy of more damaging political ammunition.

The narrative from the Democrat leadership – and, indeed, the Biden-friendly Fourth Estate – has been that the “adults are back in charge.” The party can now rightly claim that they put country before partisan politics – although political optics were almost certainly the unspoken goal. Backing the move to oust Johnson would have created a whirlwind of chaos that had the potential to become a double-edged danger.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) demurred on whether his caucus would support Johnson if another motion came to the floor. Instead, he opted for a bipartisan stance, saying he and his party would “continue to solve problems for everyday Americans to put people over politics, as we once again did today.” But his response may be only the thin veneer to an otherwise calculated risk.

On one hand, voting not to table the motion would have caused chaos within the GOP, allowing a slew of negative articles and soundbites over Republican dysfunction. On the other, however, Biden is sinking badly in the polls and a solid legislative win could turn around the precipitous decline.

If President Joe Biden had been in a stronger position politically, it seems likely that the slim GOP majority would today be hunting for a compromise candidate.

Read More From Mark Angelides

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