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Analysis of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green's effort to oust House Speaker Johnson

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican representative of Georgia, says House Speaker Mike Johnson has a pretty short window to act on a list of demands. House rules allow a single lawmaker to make a motion to unseat the speaker. And as we've been reporting, Greene wants commitments, such as no more funding to defend Ukraine against Russia. After two straight days of meetings with Johnson, Greene is not saying if she will make good on a threat to file a motion to vacate the chair, so let's bring in Republican strategist Scott Jennings once again. Good morning, sir.

SCOTT JENNINGS: Good morning.

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INSKEEP: Let's just work through the numbers here. What are Greene's odds of success if she goes ahead?

JENNINGS: About zero, because Democrats have already said they have no interest in working with her on ousting Johnson. And so right now, she's playing with a very, very bad hand and has no chance to win it because if Democrats and Republicans join together to save Mr. Johnson, then he'll be the speaker of the House.

INSKEEP: Although I do wonder if Greene still has a kind of threat, because if Speaker Johnson has to rely on Democrats to be saved, does that discredit him with some more far-right figures?

JENNINGS: I don't think so. Yes, maybe some far-right figures. But at the end of the day, the House is about math, and I think Johnson has the numbers and Greene doesn't. If Greene thought she could pull this off, she would have already triggered this thing on the floor, and so now I think this is a gambit to save face and to try to do what she does best, which is garner attention.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about that for a moment. Does the media give Greene more power than she should have because we do pay so much attention?

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JENNINGS: One hundred percent yes, you do. And that's why I thought it was noteworthy in the foreign aid vote that the House decided - Republicans and Democrats together said, we're tired of our lives being run and ruined by Marjorie Taylor Greene and a handful of other people. There's an old lesson in politics, and that is, people respond to leadership. Johnson said, I'm not going to take it anymore. People followed along.

INSKEEP: Is Johnson considered just more credible with rank-and-file Republicans than his predecessor Kevin McCarthy was?

JENNINGS: I think he's considered credible right now because he's doing the best he can with the worst math that you could be handed. Yes, the Republicans have a majority, but as you know, the numbers are so slim. It's historically slim, and so I think he's doing his level best to get the House to work its will on key issues, knowing that Republicans just don't have the kind of math that would permit them to do the things that Marjorie Taylor Greene is demanding that he do. So what's he doing? He's putting stuff on the floor, votes are being taken. Voila - bipartisanship breaks out on Capitol Hill.

INSKEEP: It seems from the outside that Johnson has more credibility with Democrats than Kevin McCarthy did. Not that he's any less conservative, but just something about his approach strikes them better.

JENNINGS: I think that's right. I think Speaker McCarthy was more bombastic and more political when it came to publicly dealing with Democrats. Johnson, more soft-spoken, more understated and he's only been speaker for six months, and so yeah, I think they're giving him the benefit of the doubt, and why shouldn't they? Because on the biggest, most recent vote, the foreign aid package, he said, look, we've got something here that 300-and-something people want to do. Let's put it on the floor. And he showed that he was willing to stand up to the dysfunctional fringe that wanted to grind the House to a halt. I think that bought him a lot of credibility with both parties in the House.

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INSKEEP: In doing things like passing foreign aid, Republicans would seem to be working the will of the majority of Americans, but there's a very large part of the Republican Party, the Republican electorate, that is not in favor of those things.

JENNINGS: Well, I think there is a misnomer about how many Republicans oppose leadership of the United States on the world stage. I think Marjorie Taylor Greene would have you believe that every Republican wants the United States to withdraw and to stop helping our allies and to stop standing up to tyrants, thugs and terrorists. That's just not true. There are a huge number of Republican voters who still believe that the United States is a force for good in this world, that we should stand up to Russia, that we should help Israel, that we should stand up to China and all the things they did in that bill. And I think they are reflective of Republicans right now more than Marjorie Taylor Greene wants you to believe.

INSKEEP: Republican political strategist Scott Jennings. It's always a pleasure. Thank you, sir.

JENNINGS: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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