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Mike Johnson
House Speaker Mike Johnson will face a vote on his removal next week, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Democrats Are Reluctantly Throwing a Life Raft to Mike Johnson

“We’re not going to continually save Mike Johnson,” Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene accused Democrats of “embracing Mike Johnson with a warm hug and a big wet sloppy kiss” by saying they’ll oppose her effort to oust him next week. But they say the bailout isn’t about liking Johnson — it’s about using the historically small majority to their own advantage.

Greene said Wednesday that she would bring her motion to vacate to the floor next week despite assurances from Democrats that they would protect Johnson by tabling the motion.

From Greene’s point of view, Democrats are giving a full-throttled endorsement of Johnson, further establishing what she and other conservatives call the “uniparty.”

“They have endorsed him. They are ready to support him as speaker. They want to keep it going, keep the band together. Why? Because Mike Johnson is giving them everything they want. Everything they want, every single thing they want,” she said at a press conference.

Democrats insist that voting to table Greene’s motion is in no way an endorsement of Johnson. Their decision to jump in now, when the caucus has been reluctant to throw a lifeline to Republican leadership in the past, is more about maintaining their own power to push back on the right.

“We want to turn the page. We don’t want to turn the clock back and let Marjorie Taylor Greene dictate the schedule and the calendar of what’s ahead,” Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar said Tuesday of Democrats’ decision to table the motion.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal said Tuesday that she wouldn’t vote to table the motion, but that Democrats would deliver the votes. She said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries opted to oppose Greene’s effort to oust Johnson because the speaker supported aid to Ukraine.

“He has been very clear that this is a narrow, very narrow, onetime deal,” Jayapal said of Jeffries. “We’re not going to continually save Mike Johnson.”

If the resolution fails — and with Democratic support, that’s almost a certainty — Greene wouldn’t commit to stopping her efforts. “I haven’t made a decision on that yet” was her only answer when asked if she’d continue to force motion to vacate votes.

Due to Republicans’ slim majority and infighting, Democrats have wielded significant power during the 118th Congress.

Few Democrats are going so far as to call it a “uniparty” like Greene. However, they do recognize the unique influence this minority has, both over the motion to vacate and throughout the 118th Congress, to keep what they view as Republican damage to a minimum.

“I’d say it’s less of us getting our priorities met and more of us being able to water down the horrible things they want to get through,” Rep. Maxwell Frost said.

“Being able for us to work our minority position as deftly as possible to help defang some of the worst prospects of a Republican majority has been part of our work this term,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “But you know, things are still gonna be bad around here until Democrats take the majority in the House, and that’s just the fact of the matter.”

Katherine Swartz is a NOTUS reporter and an Allbritton Journalism Institute fellow.