Greene’s rebellion sparks new talk of consequences for House GOP rebels

After Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s doomed referendum on Speaker Mike Johnson’s leadership, a growing number of her GOP colleagues are pushing bigger consequences for her and other rebels.

Those Republicans are proposing to build specific punishments into conference rules that would be triggered if hardliners keep breaking ranks against leadership. Sanctions getting floated include arming the entire conference with the ability to force a vote on yanking their committees or even ejecting them from the conference altogether.

The same consequences may also be on the table for Republicans who vote to block GOP bills from even getting to the floor — a once-rare show of discontent that has become increasingly popular on the House’s right flank.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some changes on a couple of committees after watching that motion to table vote,” remarked Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) as he exited the Capitol late Wednesday.

Frustration in the conference’s centrist wing has simmered for months, but it’s boiling over thanks to a growing concern: Greene hasn’t ruled out striking again, keeping alive worries among her colleagues that the Georgia Republican may well take another shot at Johnson.

And, more broadly, GOP lawmakers fret that the House could be stuck in a self-inflicted chaos loop that hobbles them heading into November — unless they course-correct.

“There is an extremely high level of interest, by a high number of members, to change the rules right now,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), the chair of the Main Street Caucus.

He added that after Greene’s decision to force a no-confidence vote, he expects renewed GOP conversations about “what rules do we need in place for the House to function, period. … I am interested in anything that would make the House run better.”

So far, the public warning signs that she’s pushed many in the conference toward their breaking point aren’t fazing Greene, who has said she doesn’t mind retribution.

“They probably want to kick me off committees. They probably want a primary. I say, go ahead. … That is absolutely their problem,” she said after Wednesday’s vote.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), her main ally in the ouster effort, was even more unbowed. He predicted that Republicans who opposed trying to strip Johnson of the speaker’s gavel were going to “take an ass-whooping from their base.”

There are plenty of reasons to doubt that Republicans could muscle through rules changes they see as necessary to protecting their majority. But more and more of them are fed up: Reps. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) and Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) both proposed during a recent closed-door conference meeting to remove members from committees if they vote against rules for debate. Van Orden and McClintock later confirmed their position to POLITICO.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) explicitly reupped those calls after Wednesday’s vote, floating the ejection of Massie and Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), in particular, from the Rules Committee — after they voted to keep Greene’s ouster push alive. Others have privately discussed the idea of expanding the Rules panel, with more Republicans to counteract those who have blocked bills from reaching the floor.

Members of the Main Street Caucus, in particular, were interested in building specific consequences into the rules even before Greene triggered her vote. Their push stemmed from their growing belief that Republicans are no longer united around what was once a constant of the majority: That you vote for a rule to get your party’s priorities to the floor even if you oppose the underlying legislation.

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.), in an interview this week ahead of the vote, recalled that former Speaker John Boehner gave him four core principles upon his arrival in Congress in 2015, with the first one being: Don’t vote against a rule from your own party.

“We now have people that routinely vote against the rules … so I think we bottomed out,” said Zinke, arguing that Republicans should honor Boehner’s edict.

“I would suggest a 80 percent rule. Oddly enough, what the Freedom Caucus has. If someone routinely violates the rules … then it should be the conference’s decision of whether he should be removed or suspended from committees,” he added.

But Republicans are increasingly acknowledging that they will have to wait until January to change their biggest procedural pet peeve: The ability of any one member to trigger a speaker-ousting vote. Given opposition from conservatives in their own ranks — who privately told Johnson this week that they didn’t support raising the threshold — they would need Democratic help to do so before 2025. And that is likely to come with too many concessions.

Still, Republicans pushing for broader changes are hoping that by giving the power to the entire GOP conference to pull members off committees, it would take the onus off of the speaker or GOP leader — and thus lessen the risk of blowback.

Even if they can’t formally boot Greene from committees, many House Republicans believe she’s isolated herself within the conference, on top of being voted out of the Freedom Caucus and losing McCarthy as her inroad to influencing leadership.

“She’s an island unto herself right now,” Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said.

Still, Johnson is unlikely to heed the latest calls, having already warned that removing people from committees could backfire. Plus, conservatives believe he isn’t the type to seek retribution.

The speaker said that he talked with Greene and her allies on Wednesday night immediately after the vote and told them he isn’t holding a grudge, indicating he’s ready to move past the drama.

“They were some of the last to leave. And, I said, ‘You know what? I don’t carry grudges, and I’m not angry about this. We have to work together. And I want to work with you guys. And those ideas we were talking about? I’m still working on them. So I hope we can put this behind us and move forward,’” he told POLITICO in an interview.

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.