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Mike Johnson is mired in a political minefield. What is most likely to cause the House GOP to implode?

Former President Trump Holds Rally In Warren, Michigan

“Mike Johnson, he’s literally turned into Mitch McConnell’s twin and worse. He’s a Democrat…. There’s not even any daylight between him and Nancy Pelosi at this point.” Harsh words from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene for House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Currently, Greene has a motion to vacate Johnson’s speakership in the hopper. Greene filed her motion to vacate on March 22 when the house was forced to vote on (and passed) a 1,012-page minibus with a price tag of $1.2 trillion. House members had less than 36 hours to read the bill or be blamed with a partial government shutdown. Just 101 Republicans, far short of the majority of the conference, voted for the minibus.


“Remember, last Congress we were all complaining: ‘We can’t even read these thousands of pages before we have to vote on them.’ We’re now back to the House of hypocrites, and I'm so sick and tired of it,” Greene said before filing her motion to vacate. “Why throw out a speaker for supposedly breaking the rules, and now we have a new speaker that is really breaking all the rules. So like, what changed?”

Certainly, a lot could change in the next few weeks if Greene decides to force a vote on the motion to vacate. Between FISA Section 702 reauthorization and Ukraine aid, Johnson finds himself in a political minefield—one false step, and Greene could blow up his speakership.

But where are the mines, exactly? They’re difficult to sniff out, but Greene provided a window into her thinking on a potential motion to vacate in a Dear Colleague letter circulated to Republican House members on Tuesday. “I will not tolerate our elected Republican Speaker Mike Johnson serving the Democrats and the Biden administration and helping them achieve their policies that are destroying our country,” Greene wrote. “He is throwing our own razor-thin majority into chaos by not serving his own GOP conference that elected him.”

“I will not tolerate this type of Republican ‘leadership,’” Greene continued. Making reference to the fights over FISA and Ukraine aid, Green claimed, “This has been a complete and total surrender to, if not complete and total lockstep with, the Democrats’ agenda that has angered our Republican base so much and given them very little reason to vote for a Republican House majority.”

“And no, electing a new Republican Speaker will not give the majority to the Democrats,” Greene wrote, preempting rebukes if she does decide to go forward with the motion to vacate. “That only happens if more Republicans retire early, or Republicans actually vote for Hakeem Jeffries.”


Neither the FISA or Ukraine aid fight seem to be trending in Johnson’s direction. On Wednesday, 19 Republican lawmakers went against Johnson in a procedural vote to move forward on FISA reauthorization legislation.

The vote against FISA came in the wake of a Wednesday post on Truth Social from former President Donald Trump: “KILL FISA, IT WAS ILLEGALLY USED AGAINST ME, AND MANY OTHERS. THEY SPIED ON MY CAMPAIGN!!!” on his Truth Social account. Though Trump’s campaign was spied upon using a different FISA authority (not 702) and some members of the corporate media are claiming that the 19 Republicans who stood against the vote to proceed are blindly doing so at Trump’s behest, the battle lines were clearly drawn much earlier in the week. Surely, Trump brought further attention to the issue and put Republicans in the pocket of the intelligence agencies on the back foot by forcing them to answer hard questions from the grassroots, but by no means was Trump’s weighing in on the topic the deciding factor. (Side note: see how the intelligence agencies, corporate media, and establishment work together?)

Johnson has been working for months to reconcile the divide over 702 in the GOP conference, embodied by the House Intelligence and House Judiciary Committees. The House Judiciary Committee wants reforms to increase transparency and accountability in the FISA process, as well as provisions that would require FISA warrants for agencies to sift through information of U.S. citizens caught up in foreign surveillance and ban the government from buying U.S. persons data from private companies.

Johnson tried to split the baby by taking a FISA reauthorization bill from the Judiciary Committee’s Laurel Lee, a representative from Florida, with some but not all of the reforms. First, Johnson prevented, and would prevent any future amendment, on banning data sales from private companies to the U.S. government—a red line for the Intelligence Committee headed by Rep. Mike Turner. FISA warrant provisions, arguably the biggest priority of the Judiciary Committee, were also made part of the amendment process and not included in the bill’s text. 

Johnson, before he was speaker, was in favor of FISA reforms, like warrant provisions, that the House Judiciary Committee proposed. As now-Speaker Johnson devised this plan, he seemed ambivalent at first, but has increasingly soured on warrant provisions. Eventually, Johnson came out fully against warrant provisions, claiming classified briefings given to him as speaker by the intelligence agencies gave him a “different perspective.”

No warrant provisions guaranteed, no deal, House conservatives suggest. Leaving the warrant provisions up to the amendment process with an adversarial speaker is too big of a risk. Now, its leg-fare against Johnson’s FISA proposal. House conservatives are trying to force open the amendment process to loosen Johnson’s grip on the process. 

“The Speaker of the House put his finger on the scale, against the amendment. And that pretty much is the story,” Rep. Chip Roy of Texas told POLITICO.

Johnson is running out of time to find a deal before Section 702 expires on April 19. Without a deal, Johnson will likely bring a clean reauthorization, which will find broad uniparty support, to the floor. Another vote that potentially courts more Democratic support and less than a majority of the GOP conference could imperil Johnson’s speakership.

But it seems there has been a provisional agreement between the pro- and anti-FISA factions. Johnson has negotiated with conservatives a FISA reauthorization that would expire in two years. They’re betting on Trump becoming president in November. The next FISA renewal will need his signature.

Greene was not among those who voted no on the procedural vote, but she has hinted her support for the final FISA reauthorization is contingent on warrant provisions.

“We do not believe in warrantless spying on the American people, especially when this bill carves out the ability for Congress to be notified when a member of Congress is going to be looked at through the FISA court,” Greene told members of the media. “That’s completely unfair. The same thing should apply for the American people. But Mike Johnson doesn’t have the trust of the conference. That’s become very clear.”

Johnson’s new two-year FISA reauthorization plan does not include warrant provisions.

Greene met Johnson on Wednesday afternoon—the first time the pair met since she filed her motion to vacate. “I got a lot of excuses,” Greene told members of the media after leaving the meeting. “We didn’t walk out with a deal.”

What’s more likely to cause Greene to trigger her motion to vacate Johnson, however, is if Johnson decides to go forward with Ukraine aid.

If Johnson moves forward with Ukraine aid, it would be one of “the most egregious things he could do,” Greene said. Currently, Johnson is working on an Ukraine aid package expected to be worth $60 billion—the same level of funding for Ukraine provided by the Senate’s previously passed supplemental. Johnson, to maximize Democrat votes, is toying with decoupling Ukraine aid from aid to Israel. But to keep some Republican votes so that a majority of the GOP conference supports the package, Johnson is exploring making some of the aid a loan or using the REPO Act to seize Russian assets to fund further U.S. aid to Ukraine. 

Chances are any Ukraine funding Johnson hopes to bring to the floor will also be under suspension of the rules. In this case, it’s a guarantee that Johnson fails to secure a majority of the House GOP’s support and a majority of the support for the package comes from Democrats.

“Let me tell you, when he forces that vote, again, under suspension with no amendments, and funds Ukraine and people find out how angry their constituents are about it, that’s going to move the needle even more,” towards a motion to vacate, Green said. “I’m not saying I have a red line or a trigger, and I’m not saying I don’t have a red line or trigger. And I think that’s just where I’m at right now. But I’m going to tell you right now: Funding Ukraine is probably one of the most egregious things that he can do.”

Johnson might have an unexpected savior, however: Donald Trump. On Friday, Johnson and Trump are expected to give a joint news conference during an election integrity event hosted at Mar-a-Lago. Trump is reportedly displeased at Greene’s maneuvering against Johnson. One MAGA world insider even went so far as to say Greene’s motion to vacate is “100 percent distraction. Unwanted. And just stupid.”

“We’re not going to get trapped into this cycle of bullshit that comes out of members of the House,” the Trump insider claimed.

“It’s fair to say we don’t think she’s being constructive,” another person close to Trump told POLITICO. “It’s no way to run a party; it’s no way to run a House. You can’t work in that environment.”

The bottom line: “The internal fighting is not appreciated by [Trump].”

So, Johnson is heading to Mar-a-Lago to not only beat the war drums for Trump’s reelection effort. The two are expected to talk FISA and Ukraine, and potentially do some horse trading on these issues to protect Johnson’s speakership. Over the course of his 2024 campaign, Trump has balked at being labeled “conservative,” opting instead for “common sense.” The former president has always been a pragmatist and dealmaker at heart—his pragmatic streak has been on full display when it comes to the issue of abortion as of late. But is he willing to make a deal to protect Johnson when two of the former president’s key issues—war in Ukraine and the weaponization of the federal government—are on the line and the biggest—border security—goes unaddressed?

Even then, will it be enough to save Johnson. Greene says maybe not; she’s “not backing off at all.”

This story has been updated with information about the prospective two-year reauthorization deal.