Mike Johnson suggests 'motion to vacate' rule will change

 March 15, 2024

Speaker Mike Johnson (La.) opened the door to removing the “motion to vacate” rule that led to the historic ouster of his predecessor. 

Kevin McCarthy agreed to lower the threshold to trigger a “motion to vacate" during his marathon Speaker battle, which saw conservatives withhold their votes in exchange for concessions empowering rank-and-file members.

Republican Matt Gaetz (Fl.) ultimately triggered a motion to vacate over McCarthy's failure to cut spending, and he was sacked with eight Republicans voting against him.

Changing the rules?

Democrats and moderate Republicans have complained that the current rules on vacating the chair have made it difficult to govern.

Johnson, who has faced recurring threats of removal from his right, said members want a more “normal process" and that the rules will "probably" change in the future.

“I just think it’s something that a lot of members on both sides of the aisle talk about openly that they have a desire for [a] more normal process on the House floor again,” he said.

Conservative mutiny fizzles

Raising the bar for a motion to vacate would be a triumph for the establishment GOP after the successful mutiny against McCarthy, which was hailed by Gaetz and others as the start of a new chapter in Washington.

Since taking over, Johnson has prioritized keeping the government open and running, shepherding a $460 billion spending package to President Biden’s desk last week.

The bill is one-half of a larger framework that is expected to cost $1.6 trillion. Johnson has argued that the GOP’s narrow majority in one house of Congress doesn’t provide enough leverage to secure deeper cuts.

After months of pressure from Democrats, Johnson has also signaled he will bring up aid to Ukraine, a move that is certain to face criticism from conservatives who say America’s southern border is a bigger concern.

While House conservatives have championed the current motion to vacate as a tool for holding leadership accountable, it’s also not clear that they have any desire to re-live the drama that followed McCarthy’s ouster.

“I have never wanted to go down that road. I didn’t want to go down that road with Kevin, I don’t want to go down that road with Mike. But you are correct, it is a tool at our disposal,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tx) said.

In the media, Johnson has often been portrayed as the hapless captive of the “far-right.” But it looks like Johnson may be getting the upper hand after all.

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