Politics is a sticky beast at the best of times, but it has been especially contentious the last several months. Arguments over funding and global politics has led to significant infighting in Congress, which has resulted in surprising developments, particularly among conservative politicians.

A Deeply Divisive Time

This is not news, given how the political environment in America has developed over the last several years. Donald Trump’s campaign for president in 2016 was only the beginning of what became a deeply divisive period in American political history, a period which is currently ongoing.

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Trump’s conservative party drew clear lines of delineation between “us” and “them,” and Democrats were no better. During his presidency, Democrats went out of their way to demonize not only Trump but Republicans as a whole, increasing the bitterness that was rampaging between the parties.

Pushing the Big Lie

The end of Trump’s presidency only exacerbated matters. Trump widened the political divide further through his push of the Big Lie – the idea that the only way that Democrats would win the election was if they lied, or cheated their way into it.

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This mistrust in the electoral process, as well as distrust in Democrats to be honest, came to a head on January 6, 2021, when the “Stop the Steal” rally ended in violence at the Capitol. This attempt to delay the certification of the election ultimately failed, but it’s a clear example of the stark divide between the far right and the rest of America.

Clear Political Divisions

This divide has only become clearer in the months and years since Joe Biden took the presidency. Republicans have fought against Biden policy changes as much as they’ve been able to, and since they reclaimed the House after the 2022 midterms, their complaints have only become more pronounced.

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Republicans have not been united when it comes to policy, though. This current Congress has served to highlight how deeply dysfunctional the conservative conference has become in recent years, with the far-right Freedom Caucus attempting to strongarm leadership into caving to their demands, no matter what they are.

Successful Attempts to Strongarm the Party

In some cases, these attempts have been successful. Kevin McCarthy, in his bid for the speakership back in 2023, gave up significant powers of the House leadership role in negotiating with the Freedom Caucus.

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Notably, he allowed the far-right to negotiate down the number of representatives required for a vote of no confidence in the speaker, down to only one. This means that, should a single representative be unhappy with the leadership of the House, they have the power to raise a vote to oust the speaker, without needing to find any other Representatives to sign on board.

Changing the House Rules

The rule prior to this change was that a motion to vacate could only be brought if done on behalf of a party caucus or conference. These are groups of people who believe similarly and work together in Congress to enact legislation, making for a significantly higher bar to achieve the motion to vacate.

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Given that the Speaker of the House runs the entire branch of Congress, and that the business of government cannot go on while the Speaker’s chair is empty, it’s understandable why Democrats would have made it more difficult to vacate the chair. Stability is an important value in any government, and the Speaker of the House is a significant part of that stability.

A Chaotic House

Since changing the rules to allow the motion to vacate to be presented by a single member of Congress, though, the House has been increasingly chaotic and unstable. The rule change came back to bite McCarthy after he worked with the Democrats on a continuing resolution to fund the government in Fall of 2023, and his conference – as well as all Democrats – voted to oust him from the chair.

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The chair was vacant for more than three weeks, while the Republicans attempted to find a member of Congress who would satisfy the far-right faction, as well as the more moderate establishment Republicans. They finally settled on Mike Johnson, a member of the Freedom Caucus and the man who is accused of planning the Congressional attempt to subvert the 2020 election.

Johnson Finding His Feet

Johnson is a deeply religious, far-right Republican who is not without his controversies. And it took him some time to find his seat in the Speaker’s chair, with many Republicans and Democrats alike unhappy with his appointment to the seat.

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In the last several months, though, it appears that he has finally found his way around the leadership position. He’s managed to pass several bills with bipartisan majorities to be seen by the Senate, including a $1.2 trillion package to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. This is an accomplishment that McCarthy never managed, making Johnson a more successful speaker than his predecessor right away.

Passing an Omnibus Defense Bill

And, most recently, Johnson worked with members of both sides of the aisle to put together an omnibus package of four different bills, containing aid for Ukraine, Taiwan, Israel, and a defense bill that included a forced divestment of Tiktok by the parent company owned by China.

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These bills – with the exception of the Tiktok ban – are widely popular measures that many Americans have been asking for. Supporting Ukraine in particular is a deeply important measure, one that many far-right Republicans have dug their heels in against, largely at the behest of Donald Trump, who believes that the American government should step away from supporting the war against Russia in Ukraine.

Making Conservative Members Unhappy

Passing the omnibus bill – which violates one of the many convoluted rules that the Freedom Caucus managed to wrestle out of McCarthy during his turn in the leadership – has ruffled a few feathers in the conservative conference, though these measures are largely popular with constituents.

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While many Republicans who are unhappy with the issue haven’t done more than complain to the media or online, one Republican has decided to take a step further. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) has decided that Johnson has gone one step too far with this bill, and has filed the motion to vacate the speaker’s chair, yet again.

The Republican Exodus of Congress

This move comes in the wake of a significant number of Republicans leaving the House before the end of their term, shrinking the Republican majority, which was already razor-thin. The majority has shrunk to just one member, and many Republicans are criticizing MTG for rocking the boat of Congress yet again.

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MTG has doubled down on her desire to vacate the chair when asked about it, both online and in person. She’s called Mike Johnson a “traitor to the country” and has stated that Johnson clearly can’t support what “real” Republicans need, and wants to start over with a new Speaker who she believes will better support the needs of Americans.

Criticisms of Greene

This is not a popular move, in the House or in the population. Since proposing the motion to vacate the chair, multiple conservative publications, such as the Rupert Murdoch-owned New York Post and Newsmax, have criticized Greene, theorizing that she might be a Russian plant for her strong opposition to funding for Ukraine.

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Criticism on the issue has even come from a deeply unlikely source, the former president himself, Donald Trump. In a conversation with conservative radio host John Fredericks, Trump shot down the idea of replacing Johnson as the speaker.

Trump Speaking Out

“We have a majority of one, okay?” he said. “It’s not like [Johnson] can go and do whatever he wants to do. I think he’s a very good person….I think he’s trying very hard.”

Source: Wikimedia/The White House from Washington

Trump’s support is one of the reasons that Johnson won the Speakership in the first place last October, and Johnson has made clear that his allegiance is to Trump in the months since he ascended to the leadership position. Understanding that, Trump’s support of Johnson in his position is understandable, particularly in an election year where Republicans are seeking to take back power.

Greene Undeterred

Greene doesn’t seem to be deterred in her efforts to burn down Congress. Since announcing that she was filing the motion to vacate, several other Republican members of Congress have joined her in calling for Johnson to vacate the leadership chair, though she has yet to bring the measure to a vote.

Source: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore

Rumors have it that Democrats will save Johnson from being ousted if the measure is brought up for a vote. Creating chaos in Congress during an election year is a mess that nobody reasonable wants, and if “Moscow Marjorie” is going to dig in her heels on the issue, she might end up facing the consequences come this November.