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GOP effort started by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green will try to oust Speaker Johnson

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene says she will move ahead this week on an attempt to oust the Republican House speaker, Mike Johnson. Democrats in the House say they will block her motion. Last month, Democrats helped Johnson pass a $95 billion foreign aid bill, despite factions in both parties that object to U.S. involvement in one or more wars overseas. Here's House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries on CBS's "60 Minutes."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "60 MINUTES")

HAKEEM JEFFRIES: And our view would traditionally be let the other side work its own mess out. But when that mess starts to impact the ability to do the job on behalf of the American people, then a responsible thing at that moment might be for us to make clear that we will not allow the extremists to throw the Congress and the country into chaos.

MARTIN: House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark is with us now to tell us more about all this. Good morning.

KATHERINE CLARK: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So let me follow up on the question that Hakeem Jeffries was asked on "60 Minutes." Democrats didn't save the previous House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy. So why are Democrats willing to step in now?

CLARK: This is a very different circumstance than we saw last fall. And let's be clear - this is not about saving Mike Johnson. It's about trying to get the House back to work. And Democrats are unified that the MAGA extremists need to be stopped, and we are not about to let Marjorie Taylor Greene control the floor again. Their entire tenure in office has been defined by chaos and policies that work against working families. And we're saying, let's get back to trying to come to solutions from Washington and stop these political games.

MARTIN: How do you, as a Democratic leader, see Johnson's relationship with your caucus? Do you think he has a genuine interest in bipartisan governing, or is it limited to, say, foreign policy in his job? And, I mean, I'm thinking here about the fact that he took a delegation of Republicans to Columbia University. He could have invited Democrats, who presumably care about what's going on there - he didn't. So how do you see his relationship with your caucus?

CLARK: You know, our caucus stands for values that the American people care about. And we are seeing, led by Speaker Johnson, a House GOP that wants to continue attacks on reproductive freedom. They are putting forth budgets that cut housing, child care, food assistance. They are threatening Social Security and Medicare. All of that we are in deep opposition to.

MARTIN: So why are you saving his speakership then?

CLARK: Because this is about continuing to be the adults in the room, continuing to focus our work on what the American people sent us to do. And what we have here is a pro-Putin caucus that is led by Marjorie Taylor Greene. And when Speaker Johnson, finally, after months of delay, put forward - and with the help of Democrats - passed the national security package, we're saying it's time to turn the page. Let's get back to working on housing and infrastructure and bringing the cost of health care and groceries down for Americans. That's why we are voting to table this motion when she makes it.

MARTIN: And you believe that that will occur. I guess the question is, what are Democrats getting out of saving the speakership?

CLARK: Democrats are getting the fact that we are going to continue, even though we are in the minority and not setting this agenda, trying to reach our hand across the aisle in bipartisanship to get anything done. And what we are going to continue to do as Democrats is stand up against the extremism that is being led by the head chaos agent, Marjorie Taylor Greene. And we're going to - we've proved it. Our votes over the last 18 months - we ended the Republican-manufactured debt ceiling crisis. We have kept the government open, and we passed the national security package. At this point in time, taking this procedural vote to table this motion to vacate is our signal to the American people that we are working for you, not for the extremists in the House.

MARTIN: So as the Democratic whip, you're in charge of corralling votes. This is a time when many Democrats oppose President Biden's policies in some areas - I'm thinking particularly about Israel's execution of the war in Gaza. Are you worried about that? Are you worried about maintaining unity in your own caucus?

CLARK: Our caucus has continued to be unified around exactly the issues that I've talked about that we are going to stand up for - affordable health care, reproductive freedom, LGBTQ Americans, to expanding housing and transportation in this country, addressing climate change.

MARTIN: OK.

CLARK: Those are the issues...

MARTIN: OK.

CLARK: ...That we will continue to champion.

MARTIN: And that is Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts. She is the House minority whip. Congresswoman Clark, thank you so much for speaking with us once again.

CLARK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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