House Republicans had a bad day

WASHINGTON — Friday began with House conservatives holding a press conference to trash the $1.2 trillion spending bill their leaders negotiated with Democrats, sparking some fears about its prospects.

It squeaked through — requiring 67% of the House, it ended up winning 68% — but a majority of Republicans voted against it.

It was just the first headache of the day for House Republicans as they adjourned for a two-week recess, offering a distillation of the infighting and disenchantment that continues to plague the party 15 months into its narrow majority. Things were about to get worse.

Moments later, far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., shocked her colleagues by filing a motion to overthrow Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., blasting his stewardship of the chamber and threatening renewed turmoil at the helm of her party.

“It’s more of a warning than a pink slip,” Greene told reporters. “I do not wish to inflict pain on our conference and to throw the House in chaos. But this is basically a warning and it’s time for us to go through the process, take our time and find a new speaker of the House that will stand with Republicans and our Republican majority, instead of standing with the Democrats.”

She didn’t formally trigger the vote, but it now hangs over Johnson’s head as a warning sign if he steps out of line with her again. If she activates it, the House would have to vote within two legislative days, requiring a simple majority to evict Johnson. It reopened the wounds of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s ouster last October and the three weeks of chaos as they tried to replace him.

Raj Shah, a spokesman for Johnson, said the speaker is “focused on governing” and “will continue to push conservative legislation.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene outside of the U.S. Capitol on Friday. Anna Moneymaker / Getty Images It was the last vote for Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., the conservative hard-liner who was all but banished from the party after he insisted that its leaders stop spreading lies about the 2020 election and accept that former President Donald Trump lost. He resigned from Congress on Friday, leaving his seat empty for now.

Buck voted “no” on the spending bill, and said he’d have voted “hell no” if possible. But despite his unassailable fiscal conservative credentials, he lost his stature on the right for insisting his party reject the stolen-election claims, reflecting a new litmus test.

On his way out the door, he signed two discharge petitions that could force votes on aid for Ukraine and other U.S. allies, an attempt to subvert Johnson’s control of the House floor.

In the afternoon, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., the rising star who recently said he’ll retire from Congress, announced he’ll be quitting early — on April 19. His move will further thin the GOP majority and risks leaving Johnson with a one-vote margin in the coming months.

Within moments of Gallagher’s move, House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger, R-Texas, made the unusual decision to step down early from her powerful post, asking Johnson to replace her as chair of the committee that doles out federal funding “as soon as possible.” In a letter, Granger said she has “accomplished more than I ever could have imagined,” and thanked Johnson for stepping up to lead “during a very tumultuous time.”

Granger already said she won’t seek re-election this fall. But her move to relinquish the coveted gavel midsession highlights the paralysis that has defined the government funding process, which took four stopgap measures and six months into the fiscal year to resolve. The next funding deadline looms at the end of September.

Democrats were shocked by what they were witnessing.

“Absolutely incredible ‘last scene in a Godfather movie’ vibes in the U.S. House of Representatives today,” said Aaron Fritschner, deputy chief of staff for Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va.

Meanwhile, the expelled former congressman George Santos announced his plans to run as an independent in New York’s competitive 1st District on Long Island, which is currently held by Republican Rep. Nick LaLota. Santos, who had represented the 3rd District before he was expelled from the House, said he’ll run as an independent with “Ultra MAGA/Trump supporting values.”

Santos still has hurdles to clear before he can gain ballot access under New York law. But if he succeeds and pulls MAGA voters from LaLota, it could split the GOP vote and help Democrats.

“George Santos’ expulsion from Congress was good for the nation and his resignation from the Republican Party is good for commonsense conservatives,” LaLota, who led the push to expel Santos, said in a statement to NBC News. “Santos can watch me defend this important swing district and the November election results from his prison cell as he’s being held accountable for stealing an election and ripping off donors.”

Santos, who was expelled after fabricating much of his resume and charged in a 23-count federal indictment, said he’s leaving the GOP because he’s embarrassed by it.

“The Republican Party continues to lie and swindle its voter base,” Santos wrote on X. “I in good conscience cannot affiliate myself with a party that stands for nothing and falls for everything.”

Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.

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