A possible problem (for Speaker Johnson’s leadership)

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., remains House Speaker Mike Johnson. For now.

Despite lots of threats, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has not yet pulled the trigger on her resolution to unseat Johnson.

Greene and Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., huddled with Johnson for a second consecutive day Tuesday. Just last week, Greene proclaimed she would initiate her resolution to dump Johnson. But Greene is holding back. Again.

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She first threatened to force the House to vote on her measure in mid-March.

“We had discussions in the speaker’s office, and right now the ball is in Mike Johnson’s court,” said Greene.

When pressed when she might make her move against the speaker, Greene replied, “It’s up to Mike Johnson.”

There are droves of unhappy House Republicans right now. Greene says she wants to get members on the record, showing who is for and against Johnson. Moreover, Greene could underscore what is likely widespread support for Johnson. But a prospective vote total on Greene’s unorthodox gambit to pluck Johnson from the speaker’s suite would serve as an important metric. It would serve as a gauge of what could be a cataclysmic set of political events that might unfold late this year and early next. In fact, they could paralyze the republic.

To wit: If Greene ever called up her resolution, the House will first vote to block Greene from ever offering her motion to “vacate the chair” and mandate a new vote for speaker.

Like most things, it’s about the math. So let’s explore that for a moment.

Granted, there will likely be some GOPers who oppose tabling. In other words, there’s an unknown universe of Republicans who would be on the record, preferring that the House take a vote of no confidence on Johnson. But the House will likely short circuit that effort.

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has threatened to call to a vote a vacation of post for House Speaker Mike Johnson, however the event has yet to pass. (Getty Images)

No, things haven’t gone well at all for House Republicans since they won back the majority in the 2022 fall midterms. The House consumed five days and 15 rounds just to elect former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., in early January 2023. And it only took House GOPers nine months to remove McCarthy. That prompted a 22-day interregnum in the House. It paralyzed the institution from doing anything until it finally elected Johnson as McCarthy’s successor.

Rank-and-file Republicans are exhausted by the daily internecine drama surrounding Johnson and Greene. Moreover, most House Republicans concede they’ve had it with Greene and don’t want to fuel her enterprises.

“We don’t like it. We’d be angry about it because all it does is weaken all of us,” said Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb. “Tactically and strategically, it’s not smart.”

Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., had signed on to Greene’s gambit to vacate the speakership of Johnson. But Gosar is suspect about the timing.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen this week,” said Gosar. “I hope it doesn’t happen this week. So I’ll leave it at that.”

Yours truly asked Johnson about the longstanding threat by Greene.

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“It’s not good for the country, the conference or the cause,” replied Johnson.

The fact that Democratic leaders announced they would try to help Johnson out via a parliamentary maneuver to remove him seemed to pour accelerant on the embers of the House Republican Conference.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said she supported the move by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., to bring in the Democratic cavalry for Johnson.

“I think he’s very much in touch with our caucus,” replied Pelosi.

I then asked Pelosi what this means about Johnson if he must lean on the minority to cling to his job.

“He doesn’t have to turn to the minority for support,” replied Pelosi. “The minority party is saying we support the integrity of the House of Representatives and will not let it be littered by nonsense.”

A cynic might point out that Democrats never came to the rescue of McCarthy. But Democrats contend that McCarthy went back on a major spending agreement and spoke derisively of the other party. Yes, there are chasms between Democrats and Johnson. But Democrats at least believe they got what they need from Johnson — a bill to fund Ukraine and an honest broker when it comes to spending deals.

However, in a Machiavellian twist, did Democrats actually stoke more chaos in the Republican Conference by saying they would back Johnson? Hence, the reason Greene is now meeting with Johnson on a regular basis? Even if that’s not the intent, the outcome is hard to argue with. There’s turmoil among House Republicans now.

House Republicans

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., second from left, takes questions as House Majority Whip Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., left, and House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., look on during a news briefing at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 2, 2023 (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rank-and-file Republicans are also noticing how much attention Greene and Massie receive. They are grumbling about the daily drama.

“You hold a big press conference last week to say you are going to do it this week. And then you go through the same process again,” groused Rep. David Joyce, R-Ohio. “Are we fundraising or are we trying to get something accomplished on the floor?”

Joyce also suggested Johnson might “create a revolt if he caters to any one group who threatens him.”

As Shakespeare wrote, what is past is prologue. And that’s why the bedlam of House Republicans now might reveal something rather jarring about the future when it comes to Johnson, any other potential Republican Speaker and the presidency.

The House has now burned 28 of the 494 days since the 118th Congress commenced on Jan. 3, 2023, fighting over a speaker. By rule, the House can do nothing — absolutely nothing — until there is a speaker. It can’t vote. It can’t create committees. It can’t legislate. It can’t even swear in its members. The House spent five days before it finally elected McCarthy as speaker in January 2023. It was the longest speaker election since the late 1850s. The House then torched 22 days in October after it jettisoned McCarthy before finally electing Johnson.

Here’s the problem:

Let’s say for the sake of argument Republicans maintain control of the House in this fall’s elections. If Democrats win the House, the party will elect Jeffries as speaker. But if the GOP prevails, the path for Johnson back to the speaker’s suite — or anyone else — is far from clear. If Greene ever does call a vote on Johnson, we’ll have a barometer to understand the type of deficit Johnson might face in January.

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Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks to reporters outside the U.S. Capitol Building during a vote on legislation pertaining to TikTok March 13, 2024, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

As demonstrated in January 2023, the House is required to vote. And vote. And vote – until it elects a speaker. No other business. Period. And to reiterate, it cannot even swear in the members.

Under the Constitution, the new Congress, tapping a speaker and swearing in members must start at noon Jan., 3, 2023.

It took five days to elect McCarthy, 22 days to elect Johnson.

The House had time to spare in January 2023. It was coming off a midterm election. It certainly had time last fall.

However, time will not be a luxury on Jan. 3, 2025, when the 119th Congress convenes.

That’s because the House is supposed to certify the Electoral College Jan. 6.

Congress did not conclude certifying the electoral votes for the 2020 election until the wee hours of Jan. 7, after the riot at the Capitol.

So what happens if the House is deadlocked over electing a speaker and can’t conduct a Joint Session of Congress to certify the Electoral College?

This is the issue that may be ahead if Republicans hold the House and struggle to elect a Speaker.

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And that’s why the current troubles vexing Mike Johnson now could be geometric in scope come January.

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