Ouster threat looms as Speaker Johnson returns to Congress

By Clare Foran and Haley Talbot | CNN

House Speaker Mike Johnson pushed to pass a major foreign aid package over the objections of hardline conservatives. Now, the Louisiana Republican will have to face the fallout.

The House returned to session Monday evening following a weeklong recess after the chamber’s consequential move to pass billions of dollars in aid for Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region.

Looming over Johnson this week is the question of whether he will face a vote over his ouster.

The speaker’s decision to move the aid package won significant praise on both sides of the aisle, with many Republicans and Democrats commending Johnson over the assistance to key US allies.

Johnson has defended his leadership in the face of the growing threats, saying that he will not resign and warning that a vote to oust him could cause chaos in the House.

A number of conservatives, however, opposed the legislation — and sending further aid to Ukraine in particular. GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said that Johnson “betrayed” Republican voters following passage of the foreign aid and has threatened to call a vote on his ouster if he doesn’t resign.

Greene, however, was absent from the Monday evening vote series. CNN has reached out to the congresswoman’s office.

Greene filed a motion to vacate the speaker more than a month ago, but has not yet taken the steps needed to force a vote. So far, two other House Republicans have publicly backed the effort — Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Paul Gosar of Arizona.

Earlier Monday evening, Johnson told CNN he hasn’t talked to the congresswoman about her motion to vacate.

Greene argued following the House vote on foreign aid that more House Republicans will support her effort to remove Johnson after going home over recess and hearing from their constituents.

It’s still not clear, though, when or whether a vote to decide Johnson’s political fate will come up.

Many Republicans have warned against an ouster vote, fearing it could throw the House GOP conference into chaos yet again and pointing to the contentious weekslong fight for a new speaker after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted in an unprecedented vote last year as a cautionary tale.

“Listen, as I’ve said many times, I don’t walk around this building being worried about a motion to vacate,” Johnson said in response to a question from CNN after the House passed the foreign aid bills. “I have to do my job. We did. I’ve done here what I believe to be the right thing to allow the House to work its will. And as I’ve said, you do the right thing, and you let the chips fall where they may.”

A floor vote to oust Johnson would require a majority to succeed. If a vote were triggered, a motion to table — or kill — the resolution could be offered and voted on first. That vote would also only require a simple majority to succeed.

As of now, there is a widespread expectation on Capitol Hill that, in the aftermath of the passage of Ukraine aid, enough Democrats would be willing to cross the aisle for Johnson to prevail in such a vote.

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Over the recess, Johnson appeared to be trying to quell conservative opposition by highlighting his support for causes and positions that motivate the GOP base. On Wednesday, he visited Columbia University and called on the university president to resign amid protests on campus during a tense news conference where the crowd repeatedly interrupted the speaker and at times loudly booed him.

The speaker’s visit earned some plaudits from detractors inside the GOP.

GOP Rep. Chip Roy of Texas, who has been publicly critical of Johnson’s leadership, wrote on X: “I’ve had my strong disagreements on spending / foreign aid – but I applaud @SpeakerJohnson for going to Columbia.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

CNN’s Kit Maher and Lauren Fox contributed to this report.

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