7 min read

MTG on an island

Marjorie Taylor Greene proved herself to be utterly alone and powerless within her party.
MTG on an island
Photo by Gage Skidmore

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After threatening to call a vote on House Speaker Mike Johnson’s (R-LA) ouster for more than six weeks, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) finally pulled the trigger on Wednesday.

As expected, the effort was soundly defeated, in a 359-43 vote. One of Greene’s main demands was that Johnson comply with the so-called “Hastert Rule” — which calls for a speaker to only hold a vote on bills that a “majority of the majority” support — and yet Green’s own motion only attracted the support of 5% of House Republicans.

Despite her frequent accusations that other GOP lawmakers are abandoning conservative principles and conspiring with the opposition, more Democrats sided with Greene on Wednesday than Republicans. In total, 196 Republicans and 163 Democrats voted to block Greene’s motion; 11 Republicans and 32 Democrats voted in support of it.

The result was a stark reversal of the October vote to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), when Democrats linked arms with a small faction of Republicans to confiscate McCarthy’s gavel. This time, Democrats largely came together to rescue Johnson, as a token of gratitude for his bringing a Ukraine aid bill to the floor last month — which doubled as a key reason that Greene filed the motion in the first place.

Once Greene’s motion failed, the House simply moved on, as though it had not just defeated the third-ever motion to vacate the speakership in congressional history. Within a few minutes, the chamber was voting on a resolution to overturn the Securities and Exchange Commission’s staff bulletin on cryptocurrency accounting. There could be no greater insult to Greene, a consummate attention seeker, that Washington largely responded to her long-awaited motion with one big shrug.

Well, with a shrug and a string of dismissive comments about Greene to the press. After spending a few years humoring her, Republican have clearly lost their patience with the Georgia congresswoman, and they were not afraid to let reporters know on Wednesday:

  • “Most of us by the time we turn 12 years old figure out tantrums don’t actually work, but apparently not everyone has gotten the memo.” — Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD)
  • “She’s an embarrassment to her district” — Rep. John Duarte (R-CA)
  • “I think you see from everyone, from Donald Trump on down, nobody thinks this is productive.” — Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY)
  • “"I thought she was going to wisely withdraw...but she went through it and...got her a** kicked.” — Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT)
  • “That was a huge smackdown that she just got, and if she doesn’t see it that way, then she needs to get help.” — Rep. Max Miller (R-OH)

Besides the support of a few fellow right-wing members, Greene stood utterly alone within the party. Even former President Donald Trump, her close ally, opposed the effort to oust Johnson, although he did offer praise for Greene on social media, straddling both sides of the GOP divide.

Greene seemed to bathe in her colleagues’ criticism. When both Democrats and Republicans booed as she introduced the motion to vacate, Greene held up her hands and pointed to both sides of the aisle. “This is the Uniparty, for the American people watching,” she proclaimed.

But, as often as not, “Uniparty” is just a moniker that politicians throw out to make it sound suspicious when a majority of the country disagrees with them. Bipartisan votes in Congress are generally a sign that bipartisan majorities of Americans agree on a certain issue, not that there is an establishment cabal conspiring against the voters, as Greene alleges.

Greene’s main beefs with Johnson were his bills to reauthorize FISA and to aid Ukraine — pieces of legislation that boasted 55% and 53% support nationally. Greene, meanwhile, had a 22% favorability rating in a recent poll, a mere nine points above O.J. Simpson’s favorability in the same survey. Another poll found that vastly more Republicans had never heard of Johnson or didn’t have an opinion on him (45%) than had an unfavorable opinion (16%), signaling scant GOP support for her motion against him.

Call it a “Uniparty” if you want, but Wednesday’s lopsided vote in Congress was just a reflection of the fact that Greene has few fans across the country and lacks majority support for most of her proposals.

When considering MTG’s standing in Washington, it can be instructive to compare her to another celebrity lawmaker known by her initials: AOC.

Like Greene, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) entered Congress as the rare freshman with built-in name ID. Early on, they both staked out positions on the wings of their parties, and made clear that they planned to make life difficult for their party’s leaders. Before she was even sworn in, AOC joined a protest outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office; in her first days in office, MTG helped initiate the false conspiracy theory that the January 6th rioters were members of antifa.

From there, the two have taken different paths. Ocasio-Cortez spent her first several months clashing with Pelosi, but eventually settled into a much quieter rhythm, focused on finding Democratic and Republican allies to advance her legislative priorities. She went from outside agitator to inside operator, climbing the ranks of the House Oversight Committee and even emerging as a surrogate for Joe Biden, despite their obvious policy differences. Last month, she donned his trademark aviators as he began to implement one of her main proposals, a symbol of the establishment president and activist lawmaker each conforming to the other.

“I had to prove to this world of Washington that I was serious and skilled, and that I wasn’t just here to make a headline, but that I was here to engage in this process in a skilled and sophisticated way,” Ocasio-Cortez explained to the New York Times. “That I did my homework, so to speak.” In short, she learned when to say “no” and when to compromise, one of the most important skills for accumulating political power.

There was a brief spell when it seemed Greene had learned that lesson, too. When McCarthy was in office, she notably refrained from joining the efforts to oust him; like Ocasio-Cortez, she cultivated a relationship with her party’s leader and extracted key concessions out of him with savvy.

But, with McCarthy — her leadership protecter — out of the picture, Greene clearly lost her patience with this sort of quieter rise through Washington, which requires the painstaking work of building relationships and coalitions brick by brick. She returned to form, and gambled away all her influence to achieve her priorities as she did so.

“This is not a negotiation,” Johnson said bitingly of his talks with Greene this week, acknowledging that there was little point in trying to work with someone who has no interest in getting to “yes.” In short, Greene made a choice chase attention rather than try to accumulate true political power. Yesterday, she didn’t receive much of either, and came off looking weak and ineffectual as a result.

More news to know.

Biden draws his red line, via CNN: “President Joe Biden said for the first time Wednesday he would halt some shipments of American weapons to Israel – which he acknowledged have been used to kill civilians in Gaza – if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders a major invasion of the city of Rafah.”

“‘Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,’ Biden told CNN’s Erin Burnett in an exclusive interview on ‘Erin Burnett OutFront,’ referring to 2,000-pound bombs that Biden paused shipments of last week.”

“‘I made it clear that if they go into Rafah – they haven’t gone in Rafah yet – if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities – that deal with that problem,’ Biden said.”

“The president’s announcement that he was prepared to condition American weaponry on Israel’s actions amounts to a turning point in the seven-month conflict between Israel and Hamas. And his acknowledgement that American bombs had been used to kill civilians in Gaza was a stark recognition of the United States’ role in the war.”

More headlines:

The day ahead.

President Biden and Vice President Harris will welcome the Las Vegas Aces to the White House to celebrate their 2023 WNBA championship.

The Senate will hold a procedural vote on the FAA reauthorization package.

The House is out for the week.

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