Marjorie Taylor Greene Is Not as Powerful as She Thinks She Is

In an interview last week, NewsNation’s Blake Burman asked Speaker Mike Johnson about Marjorie Taylor Greene, and before Burman could finish his question, Johnson responded with classic Southern scorn. “Bless her heart,” he said, and then he told Burman that Greene wasn’t proving to be a serious lawmaker and that he didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about her.

Strangely enough, Johnson’s dismissal of Greene — on the eve of her potential effort to oust him from the office he won in October — spoke as loudly as his decision to put a vote for Ukraine aid on the floor in the first place. In spite of the Republican Party’s narrow majority in the House and the constant threat of a motion to vacate the chair, he will not let MAGA’s most extreme lawmaker run the place.

To understand the significance of this moment, it’s necessary to understand the changing culture of the MAGAfied Republican Party. After eight years of Donald Trump’s dominance, we know the fate of any Republican politician who directly challenges him — the confrontation typically ends his or her political career in the most miserable way possible, with dissenters chased out of office amid a hail of threats and insults. Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney are but a few of the many Republicans who dared to defy Trump and paid a high political price.

But there’s an open question: Does the MAGA movement have the same control over the Republican Party when Trump isn’t directly in the fray? Can it use the same tactics to impose party discipline and end political careers? If the likes of Greene or Steve Bannon or Matt Gaetz or Charlie Kirk can wield the same power, then the transformation of the party will be complete. It won’t be simply in thrall to Trump; it will be in thrall to his imitators and heirs and perhaps lost to the reactionary right for a generation or more.

I don’t want to overstate the case, but Johnson’s stand — together with the Democrats’ response — gives me hope. Consider the chain of events. On April 12, Johnson appeared at Mar-a-Lago and received enough of a blessing from Trump to make it clear that Trump didn’t want him removed. Days before a vote on Ukraine aid that directly defied the MAGA movement, Trump said Johnson was doing a “very good job.”

Days later, Johnson got aid to Ukraine passed with more Democratic votes than Republican — a violation of the so-called Hastert Rule, an informal practice that says the speaker shouldn’t bring a vote unless the measure is supported by a majority within his own party. Greene and the rest of MAGA exploded, especially when Democratic lawmakers waved Ukrainian flags on the House floor. Greene vowed to force a vote on her motion to end Johnson’s speakership. She filed the motion in March as a “warning” to Johnson, and now she’s following through — directly testing her ability to transform the House.

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