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For months, Republican rebels have leveraged their party’s wafer-thin majority and the specter of another speakership ouster to scuttle or stall legislation sought by the moderate GOP wing.

Now that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) committed the ultimate defiance against them by wrangling through another tranche of Ukraine aid, all eyes are on the rabble-rousers.

Already, three hardliners have publicly backed a motion to oust Johnson and vacate the chair, but so far, all have been a bit skittish about pulling the trigger.

“I’m actually going to let my colleagues go home and hear from their constituents.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) told reporters Saturday after the Ukraine bill passed.

“I said from the beginning I’m going to be responsible with this. I support my majority, I support my majority last time. I do not support Mike Johnson, he’s already a lame duck.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene has emerged as the face of the latest effort to take down a GOP speaker. Getty Images

Greene first dangled the motion to vacate against Johnson in March just before the House passed the last of the spending bills needed to fully fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2024.

It was meant to deter the speaker from forging ahead with the reauthorization of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Section 702 and most especially the replenishment of Ukraine aid.

Johnson did so anyway.

Plot to overthrow Johnson is still alive

Greene has sought to gin up support for a motion to vacate and now has Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) backing her in the wake of what she described as Johnson’s “third betrayal.”

Mike Johnson’s speakership is over. He needs to do the right thing to resign and allow us to move forward in a controlled process. If he doesn’t do so, he will be vacated,” Greene declared Sunday.

But vacating him could prove to be a fool’s errand, and Greene has acknowledged as much.

Some Democrats have signaled a willingness to throw Johnson a lifeline, meaning the rebels may not prevail as they did in their October mutiny against former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) A failed revolt attempt could embolden Johnson and leave the rebels with egg on their faces.

Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) declined to go after Kevin McCarthy but argued that Mike Johnson has failed the party. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

A motion to vacate the chair would also almost certainly thrust the lower chamber into chaos. Last October, it took Republicans over three weeks to come up with a replacement for McCarthy.

Such mayhem could harm the GOP’s 2024 election prospects or even give Democrats more power over the lower chamber if moderate Republicans cut a deal with them to get the gavel.

Greene has acknowledged many of these potential pitfalls and insisted that she won’t be “rash and irresponsible,” implying that last year’s dethroning of McCarthy was exactly that.

She could very well barrel ahead with a motion to vacate after the House returns next week from a brief recess, at which point lawmakers will have had a chance to mingle with their constituents.

Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) became the third Republican to back a motion to vacate against Johnson. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Yet another option some in the rebel camp are mulling is to move against Johnson after the Nov. 5 election or during the Republican leadership contest. Greene has hinted at this as well.

“If we had the vote today in our conference, he would not be the speaker today. He’s already a lame duck. He can’t raise money. Everyone knows it,” Greene grumbled to reporters Saturday.

Johnson’s predecessor struggled through an agonizing 15 rounds to claim the speaker’s gavel in January of last year. The rebels are signaling his return to the top House Republican post in 2025 will be met with similar strife.

Speaker Mike Johnson is grappling with a very slim and rebellious House GOP majority. REUTERS

Ultimately, the determining factor will be how many seats Republicans win in November. Given the political landscape of gerrymandering and hyperpartisanship, Johnson doesn’t think Republicans are likely to win a supermajority.

“I think that we are beyond the days of large super majorities on either side because of gerrymandering and the way redistricting has been done and handled around the country,” he said at a GOP retreat last month.

As a result, he may have little breathing room to overcome his naysayers within the conference.

Johnson’s negotiating power dwindles

From the sidelines, Democrats have heaped some rare praise upon Johnson for bucking his far-right flank and risking his speakership to help the war-torn ally. But deep down, they’re somewhat giddy.

Discontent among House Republicans has stymied them from pursuing their agenda and given the Democrats the upper hand in negotiations, knowing Johnson needs their help to pass significant legislation.

Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y. 8) has been noncommittal about throwing Mike Johnson a lifeline. AP

Johnson recently vented that the hardliners in his party prevented him from trying to use the foreign aid package to extract concessions from Democrats on border security. The lack of progress on the border has been a top grievance for his foes such as Greene.

“We’ve got a handful of people who are never-Ukrainers … no Democrat is going to vote for border security, so it’s a mathematical impossibility,” Johnson told radio host Mark Levin late last week.

House Republicans’ diminished negotiating power was on full display in January when congressional leadership announced a top-line spending deal that clocked in tens of billions of dollars higher than the figures set in the debt limit fight last year.

If Democrats bail Johnson out from a mutiny, their negotiating hand may become even stronger.

Republicans have been bitterly divided over how to handle the war in Ukraine. REUTERS

Will Johnson buck hardliners again?

Johnson managed to steer the lower chamber through three major fights where his party was bitterly divided on spending, FISA and now Ukraine.

Although he may yet live to tell the tale, he isn’t exactly champing at the bit to defy the hardliners again anytime soon. But he may not have a choice.

Congress was six months late to fully fund the government for fiscal year 2024. Now the end of September deadline for fiscal year 2025 is fast approaching and there are no clear signs of how it will play out.

Given the Republicans’ threadbare majority, the party appears to be careening toward yet another showdown in just a matter of months, right before the November election.

Moderate Republicans livid

While the hardline faction is girding for a showdown, traditionalist Republicans are seething.

“I serve with some real scumbags,” Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) told CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, referring to his fellow Republicans such as Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Bob Good (R-Va.)

Traditionalist Republicans are quickly running out of patience with the rabble-rousers. CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

On the House floor last week, Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) called Gaetz “tubby” in a “tense” exchange as tensions flare up.

At one point, Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), who backs Johnson, suggested Republicans yank the three recalcitrant members who have stonewalled leadership’s agenda from the House Rules Committee.

Others have called for “repercussions” against those who undercut leadership.

Perhaps most pressingly, traditionalists have demanded leadership move to gut the motion to vacate, the very tool hardliners need to mount their uprising.

So far Johnson hasn’t been inclined toward lashing out at his foes and has instead pressed for unity. Last week, he acknowledged that he lacks the votes needed to kill the motion to vacate by raising the threshold to bring it forward.

“Recently, many members have encouraged me to endorse a new rule to raise this threshold. While I understand the importance of that idea, any rule change requires a majority of the full House, which we do not have,” he said.

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