Marjorie Taylor Greene files motion to remove House speaker Mike Johnson

The far-right Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor-Greene filed a motion to remove Mike Johnson as House speaker on Friday but did not pull the trigger on a move that would probably pitch Congress into a repeat of chaos seen last October, when the right ejected Kevin McCarthy.

Related: US House passes $1.2tn spending bill hours before shutdown deadline

Speaking after Johnson relied on Democratic votes to pass a $1.2tn spending bill and avoid a government shutdown, Greene said her motion was meant as “more of a warning than a pink slip” because she did not want to “throw the House into chaos”.

Claiming to be a Republican “member in good standing”, Greene said her motion was “filed, but it’s not voted on. It only gets voted on [when] I call it to the floor for a vote.”

Speaking to a scrum of reporters on the Capitol steps, she said: “I’m not saying that it won’t happen in two weeks or it won’t happen in a month or who knows when. But I am saying the clock has started. It’s time for our conference to choose a new speaker.”

Congress goes into recess on Friday and returns in two weeks’ time.

Greene said she had not discussed her motion with the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald Trump. But even without Trump’s involvement, it was the latest dramatic expression of House Republicans’ inability to govern themselves.

McCarthy became speaker in January 2023, but only after 15 rounds of voting as the pro-Trump far right hauled him over the coals.

In October, another far-right Republican, Matt Gaetz of Florida, used a concession won in that January battle by introducing a motion to vacate, ultimately gaining the support of seven colleagues (not including Greene) and achieving the first ever ejection of a speaker by his or her own party.

The deeply religious Johnson succeeded McCarthy as a candidate acceptable to the far right, but only after more than three weeks as three members of Republican leadership – Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan and Tom Emmer – failed to gain sufficient support.

Greene said on Friday there was “no time limit” on her new motion to vacate.

“It doesn’t have to be forced, and throw the House into chaos. I don’t want to put any of our members in a difficult place like we were for three and a half weeks [in October]. We’re going to continue our committee work. We’re going to continue our investigations.”

Greene has played a prominent role in one such investigation, an oversight committee attempt to impeach Joe Biden over alleged corruption involving his son – an effort that has descended into political farce.

Johnson, meanwhile, must operate with a tiny majority – set to decrease yet further after Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin said he would quit in April – and a right wing as restive as ever. Friday’s shutdown-averting spending bill was the second the speaker has passed with Democratic support.

Gaetz moved against McCarthy over the same issue but said on Friday he did not support Greene’s motion to remove Johnson.

“If we vacated this speaker, we’d end up with a Democrat,” Gaetz said. “When I vacated the last one, I made a promise to the country that we would not end up with the Democrat speaker. And I was right. I couldn’t make that promise again.”

Other rightwingers criticised Greene. Clay Higgins, from Louisiana, said: “I consider Marjorie Taylor Greene to be my friend. She’s still my friend. But she just made a big mistake … To think that one of our Republican colleagues would call for [Johnson’s] ouster right now … it’s abhorrent to me and I oppose it. I stand with Mike Johnson.”

McCarthy lost the speaker’s gavel because Democrats chose not to come to his aid. Johnson appears more likely to keep Democrats onside.

Tom Suozzi, a centrist Democrat from New York, told CNN: “It’s absurd [Johnson is] getting kicked for doing the right thing, keeping the government open. It has two-thirds support of the Congress and the idea that he would be kicked out by these jokers is absurd.”

But Democratic support may come with a price. In alignment with Trump, Johnson has blocked aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia. On Friday, an unnamed Democrat told Politico: “If we get some Ukraine aid package, that might be part of a deal.”

Raj Shah, a former Trump White House aide and Fox News executive now Johnson’s spokesperson, said: “Speaker Johnson always listens to the concerns of members, but is focused on governing.”

Greene said Republican voters did not “want to see a Republican speaker that’s held in place by Democrats”. Asked if she thought a speakership fight was a good idea in an election year, she said: “Absolutely … because, dammit, I want to win that House, I want to win the White House, I want to win the Senate and I want to restore this country back to greatness again.”

Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic minority leader, told reporters of Greene’s motion: “It’s a joke, she is an embarrassment. We will have a conversation about it soon.”

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