Just three months after becoming speaker, Johnson already facing talk of possible removal by GOP colleagues

 January 26, 2024

House Speaker Mike Johnson has only held the gavel for around three months but some reports indicate his leadership status may already be in question.

Discussions are said to be underway among some conservative House Republicans to take action to remove Johnson from the speakership, according to Esquire.

The talk of removal stems from frustration and impatience on the part of some GOP lawmakers, conservative and moderate alike, over the way Johnson has handled his leadership duties thus far, particularly his recent dealings with Democrats to reach agreements on short-term funding extension bills instead of cutting spending through the normal appropriations process.

Grumblings of a removal effort against Johnson

Politico reported that Speaker Johnson is already facing the threat of removal by some of his fellow House Republicans who are furious over the latest stopgap funding deal, worried that he might cave to Democratic and White House pressure on a border policy deal worked out in the Senate, and are ready to blame him if the GOP performs poorly in the 2024 elections.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told the outlet of Johnson, "I don’t think he’s safe right now," and added, "The only reason he’s speaker is because our conference is so desperate."

To her point, Johnson was the fourth and final candidate to be House Speaker after his predecessor, former Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), was ousted from the powerful position weeks earlier in October -- also amid fury and frustration over short-term spending deals with Democrats -- just 10 months after ascending to that role in January 2023.

To be sure, Politico reported that a Republican-led removal of Speaker Johnson seems unlikely at the moment, but that doesn't mean that the conservative Louisiana lawmaker hasn't been placed on notice that his job is potentially on the line, and Axios reported exactly that a couple of weeks ago.

In that Axios article, it was Johnson's spending deal with Democrats that provoked grumblings and second thoughts about his leadership, while the critiques in the Politico article seemed to be more forward-looking to November's elections and how Johnson's continued tenure in leadership was largely dependent upon how the GOP performed and whether it maintained majority control or not.

Sharp criticism from Johnson's interim predecessor

Aside from the removal talk, Speaker Johnson also reportedly received a healthy dose of constructive criticism on his leadership from the colleague who briefly held that acting role as interim speaker for several weeks between McCarthy's ouster and Johnson's confirmation, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), according to The Washington Times.

Speaking to reporters last week, McHenry said of Johnson, "We wish him great success. But he needs to widen the group of advisers he has. The loudest members of our conference should not dictate the strategic course of a smart majority -- especially in the most complicated bits where those loudest voices are least likely to participate in the votes necessary."

McHenry, who is retiring from Congress at the end of the term, lamented the continuation of short-term funding measures instead of normal appropriations bills and said of the delays, "To draw out the calendar doesn’t actually help produce political wins, and it’s not actually shown to create policy wins. I’m here for policy wins."

On those policy wins, however, the North Carolina congressman also advised his Louisiana colleague to bear in mind that, with controlling only one-half of one-third of the Democratic-led government, "we’re going to not get 100% of the wins," and as such, Johnson has "got to think much more strategically than how we’ve approached it in the last three months."

GOP House majority on the line along with Johnson's job

The Times reported that Rep. McHenry warned that the House majority was at stake if things continued as is under Speaker Johnson's leadership, and said, "If we keep extending the pain, creating more suffering, we will pay the price at the ballot box."

"At this point, we’re sucking wind because we can’t get past the main object in the road," he added. "We need to get the hell out of the way. Cut the best deals we can get and then get on with the political year."

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