PG A.M.: Marjorie Taylor Greene faces backlash in push to oust House Speaker

Your daily jolt of news and analysis from the AJC politics team
Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, has repeatedly called for the ouster of House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, has repeatedly called for the ouster of House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La.

Marjorie Taylor Greene is used to grabbing headlines, but the conventional wisdom was that her friendliest audience was found on conservative media platforms that applauded her rhetoric.

But that was turned on its head over the weekend as multiple right-leaning outlets blasted Greene for voting against money for Ukraine and her continued criticism of House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The New York Post called her, “Moscow Marjorie,” and accused her of doing the bidding of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Fox News ran an opinion piece on its website where the author called Greene an “idiot.” There were also cutting commentaries on Newsmax and Wall Street Journal, reporters noted.

Greene’s campaign against Johnson is a split from former President Donald Trump, who met with and backed the embattled Louisiana Republican recently. But she insists she remains in contact with Trump and that the two are on good terms.

But it is becoming clear they sometimes have different objectives.

Trump is trying to get back in the White House, and he and his advisers have taken positions recently they feel will give him the best chance to win in November. That includes moderating his tone on abortion and encouraging House Republicans to avoid any drama with Johnson that could cause voters to label them the party of chaos headed toward the general election.

Greene remains true to her white Christian nationalist and MAGA roots, which means she is not budging on policy standpoints like opposing money for Ukraine unless it’s coupled with strict border security policies. She was never a fan of Johnson, and slowly other hard-right members are joining her efforts to remove him from leadership.

The question is whether she will move forward after the weeklong recess knowing that many members of her party are making it clear they believe it’s the wrong course of action, especially if their north star is reelecting Trump.

After Greene joined dozens of other conservatives in voting against money for Ukraine, Fox News contributor Liz Peek wrote: “It’s high time someone in the Republican Party told Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to turn all that bombastic self-serving showmanship and drama queen energy on Democrats, and stop trying to defeat her own party.”

***

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., talks to reporters just after the House voted to approve $95 billion in foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies, at the Capitol in Washington on Saturday.

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

icon to expand image

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

FOREIGN AID ADVANCES. The U.S. House over the weekend advanced a $95 billion foreign aid package, and AJC contributor Jamie Dupree caught the action live.

Because the package was split into four separate votes, it allowed members to only vote for the parts they liked. Each portion passed with bipartisan support, but more than half of Republicans voted against the money for Ukraine.

Georgia Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Rome), Andrew Clyde (Athens), Mike Collins (Jackson), Rick Allen (Augusta) and Barry Loudermilk (Cassville) all opposed the Ukraine dollars.

Democrats supported all four components overwhelmingly. But the money for Israel got the least support from that party, mostly out of concern of how the conflict with Hamas had impacted the people of Gaza.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia was the only Democrat from Georgia to oppose the aid package for Israel.

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, was the only Democrat from Georgia to oppose the money for Israel. He was joined by Greene, R-Rome, and Clyde, R-Athens.

Those two were among 14 Republicans who voted against everything Johnson brought to the floor during the rare Saturday session except a border security measure that failed to get the two-thirds support needed to pass.

The Senate will interrupt a planned weeklong recess to return to Washington on Tuesday to take up the foreign aid measures.

***

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, an Atlanta Democrat, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

Credit: Courtesy photo

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy photo

MEETING WITH THE POPE. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock cut his trip to Italy short to ensure he would be back in Washington by Tuesday to vote on the foreign aid bills.

But he was sure not to miss his one-on-one meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The only other person in the room for a time was the pope’s interpreter.

Warnock, who gave The Atlanta Journal-Constitution his first interview Sunday after landing back in the U.S., said he appreciated hearing the perspective from a fellow religious leader who had gained a political platform.

“He said you engage the politics, but you remain grounded in your faith and anchored in that,” Warnock recounted. “And then we had a talk about how that informs one’s perspective on a whole range of issues that we’re dealing with right now in the public square.”

***

U.S. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, supported the aid package for Israel.

Credit: Nathan Posner for The AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Nathan Posner for The AJC

‘GET HELP.’ The wife of the general counsel for the Democratic Party of Georgia called U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the party’s chairwoman, an expletive after she voted in favor of aid to Israel over the weekend.

Serene Varghese posted the insult — one we can’t repeat in a family newspaper — on social media in response to a statement from Williams that said the vote aimed to “protect our national security, stand with our allies, and defend humanity by delivering desperately needed humanitarian aid.”

Williams, an Atlanta Democrat, was part of a bipartisan coalition that approved $26 billion for Israel and humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza and other conflict zones.

State Rep. Esther Panitch, D-Sandy Springs, is the lone Jewish member of the Georgia General Assembly.

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Varghese, whose husband Sachin is the party’s top lawyer, has long been critical of U.S. foreign policy toward Israel. Her swipes at Williams, which also included a reference to flying on Boeing 737 airplanes, brought immediate backlash. That included state Rep. Esther Panitch, the only Jewish member of the Legislature, who replied, “You are not well. Get help.”

Varghese, meanwhile, said in a social media post that her family ties are no secret.

“My husband is the general counsel to the Democratic Party of Georgia. And his deputy general council (sic) is a proud Zionist whose wife works for AIPAC. What a beautiful melting pot.”

***

GEORGIA THIRD. Is one political mega-firm working with three rival Republican candidates competing for Georgia’s open 3rd Congressional District?

The Political Brief reported that the three competitors have all contracted with Axiom or its subsidiaries, but that it was unclear if they knew “thanks to a shady network of companies” under the firm’s umbrella.

The report cited financial disclosures that showed former state Sen. Mike Crane, former state Rep. Philip Singleton and activist Jim Bennett each contracted with Axiom. The firm is run by Jeff Roe, the longtime strategist who led Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ super PAC and has advised dozens of other campaigns.

From the report:

According to industry experts, this type of practice is considered out-of-bounds within the political world. We spoke to sources with six political agencies that said they have never, and would never, accept competing clients in the way Axiom appears to be doing.

- The Political Brief

Bennett and Crane didn’t immediately respond to questions about the report. Singleton didn’t specifically comment on Axiom, instead using his statement to bash rival Brian Jack, another contender in the race.

***

LISTEN UP. On today’s Politically Georgia show, NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe discusses her book “HBCU Made.” And Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis joins the show as the New York trial against former President Donald Trump gets underway.

The show airs at 10 a.m. this morning on 90.1 FM, at AJC.com and at WABE.org.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

***

Gov. Brian Kemp hands a ceremonial pen to Morehouse Medical School President Valerie Montgomery Rice during a signing ceremony on Friday.

Credit: Nell Carroll for the AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Nell Carroll for the AJC

SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED. It’s bill signing season, the time when Gov. Brian Kemp has 40 days after the end of the legislative session to sign or veto bills that passed.

On Friday in Athens, Kemp was joined by members of the General Assembly and health care leaders as he inked a series of new health care related provisions.

Officials gathered for the ceremonial groundbreaking for the School of Medicine at the University of Georgia in Athens on Friday.

Credit: Fletcher Page/AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Fletcher Page/AJC

That included House Bill 1339, the certificate of need bill that will overhaul rural hospital regulations; Senate Bill 480, a bill to address student loan forgiveness for mental health specialists in underserved areas; and HB 872, which does the same for dental students who practice in rural areas.

Among the VIPs standing behind the governor as he signed HB 1339 were House and Senate committee leaders, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, and the lieutenant governor’s father, Bill Jones, a wealthy businessman in Jackson who pushed for the certificate of need legislation.

***

LABOR LAWS. The labor movement scored a major victory over the weekend when hourly workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga voted overwhelmingly to join the United Auto Workers union.

The vote came despite intense pushback from anti-union forces, who worry the UAW’s win could give the labor movement a new foothold in the South.

Among them is Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed onto a joint statement with governors in other southern states that condemns unionization efforts.

Kemp is also poised to sign legislation that could discourage unionization attempts at Georgia auto plants by punishing businesses that receive certain tax incentives for voluntarily recognizing unions through a card check rather than a secret-ballot election.

State Democrats released a statement celebrating the UAW vote while adding that Kemp has “made his hostility towards working people clear.”

***

Peach County voters have chosen the winners of four of the past five presidential elections.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

VOTER VOICES. Our AJC colleagues are not only stationed around the state in newly created Athens, Macon, and Savannah bureaus, they are also working to hear regularly from Georgia voters ahead of the 2024 elections.

The first installment of that coverage included dispatches from heavily Republican and heavily Democratic counties, and deeply divided territories across the state. Enjoy:

***

Activists supporting Ukraine recently demonstrated outside the Capitol in Washington.

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

icon to expand image

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden delivers remarks outside of Washington to mark Earth Day.
  • The U.S. Senate returns Tuesday to take up the foreign aid package.
  • The House is on a weeklong recess.
  • U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff holds events at Agnes Scott College in Decatur and in Macon highlighting his efforts to bring health care dollars to Georgia.

***

Bo Benjamin Love hard at work keeping the Love home safe from incursions by a cat or mail carrier.

Credit: Courtesy photo

icon to expand image

Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. Multitasking is a way of life around the Politically Georgia newsletter.

So, it’s no surprise that Bo Benjamin Love speaks to us. This four-year-old rescue calls AJC subscriber Crystal Love his person. And as clearly seen in this photo, he calls deep relaxation and guarding the door his two most important callings in life.

Bo Benjamin, add a third item to your list — you’re our Dog of the Day!

Send us your dogs of any political persuasion, and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, or DM us at @MurphyAJC. Horizontal photos are especially welcome.

***

AS ALWAYS, Politically Georgia readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to greg.bluestein@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com, patricia.murphy@ajc.com and adam.vanbrimmer@ajc.com.