Mike Johnson Responds To Marjorie Taylor Greene's Ouster Threat

The House speaker offered a dose of "reality" and explained in detail why Republicans can't have it all.

WASHINGTON ― House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) offered a detailed rebuttal Wednesday to the case for taking his gavel away.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has threatened to force a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s speakership because he has avoided government shutdowns by allowing the House to vote on funding bills that passed with Democratic votes.

During a press conference, Johnson told reporters that shutting down the government would cause “chaos” in Congress and exacerbate some of the same real-world problems Republicans have said are entirely President Joe Biden’s fault.

He went on to list some of the issues that could happen in an extended government shutdown, including people’s flights getting canceled, as well as Border Patrol agents, Transportation Security Administration agents and U.S. troops not getting paid.

“We can’t have large sections of the border being totally unpatrolled,” Johnson said. “Some of them are right now. We can’t not pay Border Patrol agents.”

It was Johnson’s most forceful response to Greene and the other Republicans who’ve faulted him for not driving a harder bargain with Democrats, who control the Senate and the White House and are equal partners in the legislative process. Greene and some of her colleagues think Democrats should have less input on lawmaking.

Johnson said he considered Greene a friend, that they don’t disagree “on any matter of philosophy” and that they’re both conservatives. Where they do disagree, however, Johnson suggested, is on “reality.”

“Here’s the reality that we have to remind everybody ― and you all know in the room because you’re here every day, but some people back home don’t realize ― we have the smallest majority in U.S. history,” he said.

“And at the same time, we Republicans only have that majority in the one House,” he continued. “We don’t have it in the Senate, obviously, where Chuck Schumer and the Democrats are in charge. And we obviously don’t have the White House right now. That’s a Democrat there too.”

In a letter on Tuesday to her colleagues, Greene suggested that if Johnson had bargained more aggressively with Democrats, Republicans “could have at least secured the border,” “taken out funding for abortion” and even defunded the Justice Department’s prosecution of former President Donald Trump. If Trump is convicted, Greene said, it would mean a “death sentence” for him. (Trump is not charged with any crimes punishable by death.)

“A death sentence for President Trump is precisely what the Democrats want,” Greene wrote. “They want him dead, and our power of appropriations could have stopped it, but Speaker Johnson didn’t even try.”

Johnson returned to the word reality again and again during his three-minute explanation of how the government works when different branches and chambers of Congress are controlled by opposing parties.

“Because of that reality, we are not going to be able to do big transformational changes that we’d like, that we know are necessary,” he said. “For example, the budget and spending, we’re not going to get all of our priorities. We will never get 100% of what we want and believe is necessary for the country, because that’s the reality. It’s a matter of math in the Congress — the numbers, the votes that are available.”

As for partially shutting down the government by allowing funding to lapse, Johnson said doing so would be bad for Republicans.

“All the things that the government does would come to a grinding halt. That would put a lot of pressure on the American people, the American economy at a very desperate time,” he said, adding, “I don’t think that it would be helpful to us from a political standpoint for the Republican Party to continue to govern to maintain keep, and then grow our majority in November.”

When Republicans threw out Johnson’s predecessor, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in October, the ouster resulted in three weeks of internal wrangling and no legislating whatsoever before Republicans settled on Johnson as their new speaker. If they did it again, Johnson said, “It would be chaos in the house.”

Johnson said he would meet with Greene later on Wednesday. Greene did not sound impressed after the meeting, telling reporters, “I got a lot of excuses.”

Greene told HuffPost that although she highlighted a spy reform bill and funding for Ukraine as things Johnson might do that could cause her to force a vote on her motion to vacate the speakership, she would not automatically do so.

“I’m not drawing a red line or saying a trigger or put a date out,” she said. “I respect my conference.”

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