Marjorie Taylor Greene calls Johnson's foreign aid package his '3rd betrayal' of American people

A bipartisan knot of House members clustered in the well of the chamber just around 2 p.m. on Saturday. The House had just approved a $26 billion aid package for Israel, 366-58, which was the final of several roll-call votes on a clutch of foreign aid bills, including $61 billion for Ukraine.

But members weren’t certain they were done yet or could head home for what was now a delayed recess week in the House. High drama gripped Capitol Hill all day as the House raced toward passage of the foreign aid package. But Saturday’s legislative spectacle on the foreign aid measures had the potential to recede to a forgotten undercard. A climatic political event loomed. Lawmakers wanted to see what would unfold and if their services were still required on the House floor.

Everyone hung around to see if Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., would introduce her resolution to dump House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. It would be hard to underscore just how dramatic a scene that could be, especially since Democrats bailed out Johnson on Friday in an effort to put the foreign aid package on the floor. And when it came to Ukraine, only 101 Republicans voted “yea.” Another 112 voted “nay.” In the meantime, 210 Democrats voted yes.

HOUSE PASSES $60B UKRAINE AID BILL AS GOP REBELS THREATEN TO OUST JOHNSON

Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., speaks to the media after the House of Representatives passed bills for aid to Ukraine and Israel on April 20, 2024. (Nathan Posner)

Yet Greene never came after Johnson on Saturday afternoon, at least parliamentarily. She did verbally unload on Johnson to the congressional press corps on the House steps.

“He did this [expletive] here on the House floor foreign war package that does nothing for America,” Greene said.

She even spoke in near Biblical terms about the speaker. Greene didn’t invoke Peter’s three betrayals of Jesus, but she did declare that his advancement of the foreign assistance program as “the third betrayal by Mike Johnson.” Greene said the other two were the passage of two major spending bills to avert government shutdowns and a reauthorization of a key law enforcement spying tool known as FISA Section 702.

“I’m thankful that America gets to see who this man is,” said Greene. “He’s already a lame duck. If we have the vote today in our conference, he would not be speaker today.”

Yet Greene didn’t call the vote on Johnson. That maneuver might have been extraordinary, especially considering that the House took the unprecedented step of stripping former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., of the gavel last fall.

So, why didn’t Greene move?

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to the media after the House of Representatives passed bills for aid to Ukraine and Israel on April 20, 2024. (Nathan Posner)

Some might say it’s about the math.

She would have lost.

House Democrats were coy about their plans to possibly protect Johnson. But after the House passed aid to Ukraine, it’s likely Democrats would have supported Johnson by voting to table or kill Greene’s resolution. Or they may have “taken a walk” and been absent for the vote. Democrat absences would have driven down the total number of House members voting. That would have diluted the votes of members who wanted to undercut Johnson.

3RD REPUBLICAN CALLS FOR SPEAKER JOHNSON’S OUSTER OVER $95B FOREIGN AID PLAN

Knowing that, it’s easy to see why there was no vote over the weekend on Johnson’s viability as speaker. But there was, in fact, a test vote.

It wasn’t the type of “no confidence” vote engineered by Greene to “vacate the chair” and force tumult in the House, requiring another election for speaker. Instead, the House took a “confidence” vote in Johnson: the vote on Ukraine.

While scores of Republicans abandoned Johnson on the Ukraine measure, 193 Republicans voted “yes” on the bill to help Israel. And 186 Republicans voted on the combination bill to curb the use of TikTok in the U.S. and impose sanctions on Iran. More Democrats voted for the bill to aid Taiwan than Republicans. But that bill still earned 178 GOP approvals.

Scores of Republicans abandoned Johnson on the Ukraine measure. But 193 Republicans voted yes on the bill to help Israel. (Getty Images)

So, Johnson remains the speaker for now. He still has his enemies in the House.

“I’m frustrated that there was zero border security in the bill,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas. “It’s mind-bogglingly stupid to put that on the floor.”

Johnson’s opponents said they want the speaker issue to smolder over the next few weeks. They believe there will be an uprising from the public over what Johnson did. That, they hope, will compel Republicans who are quiet now to turn against him.

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“Honestly, it’s tough to defend [Johnson] right now,” said Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz., one of eight House Republicans who voted to remove McCarthy from his job last fall. “I definitely sense that there’s a souring to Republican leadership.”

Freedom Caucus Chair Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., said many Republicans were suffering from buyer’s remorse about Johnson, following the bedlam of throwing out McCarthy last year.

“I’m frustrated that there was zero border security in the bill,” said Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, outraged that the House forged ahead on Ukraine aid. “It’s mind-bogglingly stupid to put that on the floor.” (Getty Images)

“We had a fight. We had a process. We tried to select the speaker,” said Good. “We ended up selecting a candidate who has failed us.”

Republicans spent 22 days trying to land on a speaker after kicking out McCarthy. In the process, they incinerated three other candidates before they got to Johnson: House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn.

This is why House Republicans are exhausted at the constant pandemonium. Rep. Jake LaTurner, R-Kan., just announced he is retiring at the end of this term. LaTurner, 36, is only in his second term.

“I just don’t think we need that turmoil right now,” said Homeland Security Committee Chair Mark Green, R-Tenn. “You don’t replace somebody unless you got to a surefire consensus [candidate] coming in behind. And we don’t.”

Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., conceded that support for Johnson was “softening up.” But Burchett added that “time is a healer.” However, he noted that “sometimes opens up wounds.”

When the GOP secured the majority in the fall of 2022, many Republicans asserted they wanted the House to “work its will.” They wanted members to be in charge, diminishing power from the leadership. They abhorred how former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., ran the House with an iron fist.

Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., conceded that support for Johnson was “softening up.” (Tom Williams)

But Republicans often find themselves in contradictory positions about how the House operates. It’s a point not lost on House Republican Conference Vice Chair Blake Moore, R-Utah.

“We wanted to give power down. We wanted to decentralize the power,” said Moore. “But when things don’t go exactly the way [some members hope], they want the speaker to influence every ounce of power that he has. It’s a little bit of a double standard.”

Translation: Some conservatives only want the House to “work its will” when it suits them.

In total, 311 House members voted for the Ukraine bill; 366 voted for the Israel bill; 385 voted for the Taiwan bill; and 360 members voted for the TikTok/Iran sanctions bill. That’s more than two-thirds of the House on each bill and well above the threshold to even override a presidential veto if one were in play (certainly not the case here).

That’s why Johnson survives right now. The House worked its will. And Johnson was willing to let it work its will – even if that could undermine him later on.

Chad Pergram currently serves as a senior congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in September 2007 and is based out of Washington, D.C.

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