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Greene’s bid to topple Johnson veers closer to backfiring

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Marjorie Taylor Greene’s push to fire Speaker Mike Johnson is firmly on track to fail, but her vow to plow forward anyway is raising a new question: Is she hurting herself more than him?

Greene wanted to ride a groundswell of new intra-GOP support back into Washington this week. Instead, not only did she fail to grow her ranks of anti-Johnson rebels over the week-long recess, but House Democrats announced that they would help block her effort — and her Republican colleagues began openly forecasting its demise.

It’s a palpable blow for Greene after she previewed her plans to force a vote on ousting Johnson more than a month ago. At that time, she set two red lines she warned the speaker not to cross: calling up government surveillance legislation without major changes and taking up aid to Ukraine. Johnson did both, playing a major role in getting the packages to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Perhaps the biggest sign that Greene’s mutiny is losing steam, however, is how House GOP leaders plan to deal with it. In a move meant to defang her threat after it has hung over the House for weeks, Johnson’s team is leaning towards calling for quick action to dispense with her proposal to fire the speaker as soon as she tries to force a vote on it, according to three Republicans familiar with the talks who were granted anonymity to speak candidly.

The Georgia firebrand could still score a symbolic win on the floor if she keeps pushing ahead, since Democrats’ public plan to protect Johnson frees up other hard-line Republicans to support her ouster plan. That would simply give more conservatives bragging rights with the party base, however, not bring Greene any closer to toppling the speaker.

And whatever fodder Greene and her allies might get from watching Democrats save Johnson, many fellow Republicans indicated that at this point, she risks further alienating herself while his speakership likely survives until November. Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) summed up Greene’s effort as “dead.” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said he was inundated with pressure back in their home state — but the requests were to get Greene to back down from her “dumb move,” not to join her.

“Everybody said, you know, ‘Can you do something to stop her from doing this?’ They did not want this to happen. They like Mike,” Loudermilk said of his constituents in a brief interview.

Republicans are particularly frustrated because Greene’s renewal of her campaign against the speaker stole oxygen from their messaging push on antisemitism this week. Instead of going on the offense by attacking Democrats for insufficiently condemning pro-Palestinian protests on campuses, Republicans are now bracing for Greene to drag them into another internal fight that most of them would rather delay until after Election Day.

Even before the growing pile-on, there were signs that Greene’s vow to strip Johnson of the speaker’s gavel was on the rocks: While she’s gained no new public GOP supporters yet beyond Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), former President Donald Trump has thrown his support behind Johnson.

One GOP lawmaker, also granted anonymity to speak frankly, said Greene is “enjoying the publicity” in the short term but pointed to that break with Trump as a reason she might suffer more long-running consequences if she goes through with forcing a vote.

“This might be a good distraction for her but … in the long term, not help her politics,” this member said.

Some of the conservatives who previously entertained joining Greene, like Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) now say they will oppose the ouster.

Crane listed four main reasons for his decision in a Tuesday interview, conducted after Democrats said they would back Johnson. In no particular order, they were: Her push won’t succeed; though Crane believes Johnson isn’t putting up enough of a fight, he doesn’t believe a more conservative speaker can get elected; “huge consequential decisions” related to Ukraine aid, government funding, and other issues are already made; and finally, Trump has made his position clear.

“The leader of our party, [former] President Donald Trump, said he doesn’t want to see it. And I think he’s worried about chaos in the House affecting the outcome of this election,” Crane said, adding that “it puts many of us in a tight spot, just because I don’t believe that Mike Johnson is doing a good job.”

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), the first lawmaker to flirt with ousting Johnson, is similarly downplaying Greene’s effort, arguing that Republicans need to keep their focus on trying to hold onto the House in November.

“There’s obviously frustration with what happened, but we’ve got to move forward and try to carry the country forward,” Roy said, adding that a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair should be used “sparingly.”

Greene’s push to oust Johnson comes after she opposed the same firing campaign last year against former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whom she had grown closer to during his nine months atop the House.

Her position in the conference has shifted dramatically since then. Greene and Johnson, by her own admission, aren’t close. Johnson indicated on Monday that he hadn’t spoken to her much about her effort to dislodge him.

Plus, the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus booted Greene last year. Nowadays, some Republicans privately suspect some hardliners who would’ve otherwise wanted to see Johnson go are opposing her ouster effort because of their personal dislike of Greene. She’s argued that the Republican conference has become out of touch with a base that has grown increasingly frustrated with Johnson — and needs to fix it before the election, not after.

But if she’s going to make good on her promise to force an ouster vote, she’s quickly running out of legislative opportunities. Republicans were waiting for her to make her move earlier this month after the House passed long-stalled Ukraine aid, a fight that infuriated the right flank.

Another House Republican, also granted anonymity to speak candidly, predicted that Greene “lays low on it until the next tough vote we have to take. And so she’ll just kind of continue to trickle it along.”

This lawmaker also said Trump has spoken to Greene about the matter directly.

Meanwhile, Greene has gone somewhat quiet as the entire House begins to wonder how long she’ll drag out her promise. She missed votes on Monday night and largely declined to comment on Tuesday, issuing a lengthy statement vowing to trigger a vote and calling a press conference for Wednesday morning.

“If the Democrats want to elect him Speaker (and some Republicans want to support the Democrats’ chosen Speaker), I’ll give them the chance to do it. … Americans deserve to see the Uniparty on full display. I’m about to give them their coming out party!” she said, using a term some conservatives use to disparage Republicans who work with Democrats.

Greene has largely declined to weigh in on Trump’s support for Johnson, saying that she is close with but doesn’t speak for the former president. Massie attempted to portray Trump’s description of the Louisianan as less than a full-throated endorsement, saying “sometimes by [faintly] praising somebody, you can kind of doom them.”

The media attention she’s vacuuming up, however, is starting to annoy her GOP colleagues, who’d rather share the spotlight.

One Republican lawmaker quipped, while passing by a group of reporters on the way into a closed-door meeting this week: “They’re just here to talk to Marjorie.”