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Mike Johnson, Matt Gaetz
Rep. Matt Gaetz had a heated conversation with Mike Johnson on the House floor. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Calls for Mike Johnson’s Ouster Are Getting Louder

A dustup on the House floor over rumors that Johnson is planning to change the threshold for a motion to vacate is escalating tensions over the speaker’s foreign aid package.

The far-right flank of the House Republican conference is circling Mike Johnson’s speakership.

Rumors started early Thursday morning that Johnson wanted to raise the bar for a motion to vacate — a move the House’s most conservative faction said would only spur a motion to vacate. Johnson’s office declined to comment.

“We notified him that any effort to change the threshold of motion to vacate would likely induce the motion to vacate,” Rep. Matt Gaetz told reporters of a heated conversation he had with Johnson on the House floor. It currently takes only one lawmaker to bring up the motion to oust the speaker.

Johnson would not firmly commit to keeping the threshold at one lawmaker, angering the party’s right-wing flank.

“I didn’t support the motion to vacate when I woke up this morning,” Gaetz said Thursday.

Rep. Lauren Boebert agreed: “That was my red line then; that is my red line now,” she told reporters of the rule.

Tensions have been high between Johnson and the party’s right-wing as the speaker has pushed for a multipronged foreign aid package to pass the House. His prioritizing aid to Ukraine, in particular, has drawn the ire of the Freedom Caucus members, who were already frustrated with him for holding a vote last week to reauthorize part of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

“Mike Johson owes our entire conference a meeting,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene told reporters on the steps of the Capitol building. “He really crossed the line with most Republicans across the country with what he did on the FISA vote last week.”

A conversation on the floor of the House between Johnson and members of the Freedom Caucus was tense but civil on Thursday, according to Rep. Tim Burchett. “It was pretty calm until one member walked up and threw a monkey wrench into the conversation,” Burchett said.

According to multiple members of the House, Reps. Byron Donalds and Gaetz were airing their grievances around the foreign aid bill. “It’s just people are frustrated and tired,” Burchett said of the conversation.

Then a “latecomer,” a visibly frustrated Rep. Derrick Van Orden, entered the conversation, daring Gaetz and his allied lawmakers to push a motion to vacate Johnson, CNN reported, reportedly calling Gaetz “tubby.”

With negotiations now pushed to a higher temperature, Johnson’s path toward getting foreign aid passed the House looks even more politically fraught than before.

For his part, Johnson called the threat of a motion to vacate being used against him “absurd” earlier this week.

“I am not resigning, and it is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs,” he said.

John T. Seward is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow. Nuha Dolby, Ben T.N. Mause and Oriana González contributed to this report.