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Johnson warns speaker vacancy would be ‘dangerous gambit’ as ouster attempt looms

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With a House floor showdown looming next week, Speaker Mike Johnson warned that a vacancy in the chamber’s top spot would be a “dangerous gambit.”

“I think it’s wrong for the Republican Party. I think it’s wrong for the institution. I think it’s wrong for the country,” Johnson told guest host Alice Stewart during an interview with SiriusXM’s “The Laura Coates Show,” adding that there needs to be a “functioning Congress.”

Johnson appears poised to defeat Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s ouster attempt, which she has vowed to trigger a vote on next week. Two Republicans have joined her in wanting to oust Johnson: Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.). A third, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio), has indicated that he will vote against tabling the motion.

With his single-digit majority margin, that is enough for Johnsnon to need to rely on help from Democrats, who have indicated they will help him keep the speaker’s gavel after he passed long-stalled Ukraine aid last month.

“They’re doing that spontaneously on their own. I’ve not requested any of it, but I think their calculation is … that we don’t need another three weeks where we functionally close the government because we don’t have a speaker in place,” he said.

Help from Democrats could drive up the number of Republicans who at least vote with Greene to prevent her ouster resolution from being pigeonholed. Massie predicted that at least a dozen Republicans will vote against tabling the resolution — a move meant to show Johnson he won’t have the votes to be speaker in January if Republicans keep the majority.

Asked at a press conference this week if forcing the vote would highlight GOP divisions and play into the hands of Democrats, Greene called the idea “bullshit.” 

“That little narrative that you echoed is a lie. That comes from the Republican establishment that Republican voters are ready to take a sledgehammer to and destroy. They’re fed up with it,” she said.

It’s less than clear that Democrats will save him repeatedly if Greene or someone else tries again. The ouster threat is likely to hang over Johnson for the rest of the year, with lawmakers increasingly acknowledging that they will need to wait until January to change the one-person motion-to-vacate threshold.