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Johnson's leadership is under threat in the House over foreign aid bills

U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., seen here at the U.S. Capitol in October 2023, said he called on House Speaker Mike Johnson to resign.
Joe Raedle
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U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., seen here at the U.S. Capitol in October 2023, said he called on House Speaker Mike Johnson to resign.

Updated April 16, 2024 at 14:02 PM ET

A second Republican member is supporting an effort to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., says he is co-sponsoring a resolution by Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, as frustration grows among blocs of conservative members at Johnson's proposed foreign aid package.

"We're steering everything toward what [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer wants," Massie said of his complaints with Johnson. "I mean, if the country likes Chuck Schumer, then they should like what Speaker Johnson's accomplished in the House."

The Kentucky Republican pointed to three areas where he feels Johnson has let his conference down: the latest spending package, the House's renewal of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that allows for warrantless surveillance of foreign nationals inside the U.S., and aid to Ukraine.

Johnson announced Monday plans to move forward on four separate bills to address foreign aid, including to Israel and Ukraine.

Schumer and the White House haven't ruled out backing Johnson's plan.

Massie said he asked Johnson to resign during a closed-door meeting with GOP House members Tuesday morning.

"He said he would not," Massie told reporters after the meeting.

Massie argued Johnson should pre-announce his resignation, likeformer GOP Speaker John Boehner,so that members could coalesce around a replacement and avoid the drawn-out process they faced last fall when they ultimately elected Johnson as speaker.

"If somebody calls in a motion to vacate on the floor, and it succeeds, which it will, now you have no speaker," Massie said. "And then you have a temporary speaker and it's a hot mess."

His comments come almost a month after Greene filed a motion to vacate resolution over disputes with the speaker on how he handled a $1.2 trillion appropriations package. That resolution is not privileged, meaning it's unclear when it might be brought to the floor for a vote.

Massie said if it is called for a vote, "there will be a lot of people who vote for it."

South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he respects Massie but disagrees with his support of the motion to vacate.

"The last thing this country needs is to throw a speaker out, even though I disagree with what he's done," Norman said.

After the meeting, Johnson told reporters that "steady leadership" is needed and the motion-to-vacate threat weakens the GOP conference.

"It is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs. It is not helpful to the cause," Johnson said. "We have to have a united front and we have to have our members work together."

Johnson has a razor-thin majority, which goes down to one seat on Friday when Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher's retirement becomes effective. If Greene were to call for a vote, Johnson would likely need support from Democrats to keep the gavel.

Florida Democratic Rep. Jared Moskowitz has already said he would support Johnson in a motion to vacate vote.

"Massie wants the world to burn, I won't stand by and watch. I have a bucket of water," he posted on X.

Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar told reporters Tuesday that Democrats want to see aid move forward to Ukraine and Israel.

"That's what we're focused on right now. We can't control the theatrics of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the House Republican conference," he said. "We don't like the chaos and the dysfunction. We've been down this road before."

Copyright 2024 NPR

Barbara Sprunt is a producer on NPR's Washington desk, where she reports and produces breaking news and feature political content. She formerly produced the NPR Politics Podcast and got her start in radio at as an intern on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered and Tell Me More with Michel Martin. She is an alumnus of the Paul Miller Reporting Fellowship at the National Press Foundation. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Pennsylvania native.