Johnson's margin drops to one vote as Gallagher heads for early exit

Speaker Mike Johnson is about to drop to a one-vote majority, as retiring Rep. Mike Gallagher has decided he will exit the House as soon as next month, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

In a statement shortly after this story published, Gallagher said he planned to leave April 19.

“I’ve worked closely with House Republican leadership on this timeline and look forward to seeing Speaker Mike Johnson appoint a new chair to carry out the important mission of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.

Wisconsin law dictates that Gallagher’s seat — in a solidly red district — will stay empty for the rest of his term. Departing before April 9 would have triggered a special election.

The Wisconsin Republican announced earlier this year that he would not seek reelection, after he received blowback for voting against impeaching Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. His allies, however, say he was long jaded by the antics of the House following the ouster of Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

It’s bad timing for Johnson, who is now potentially facing a vote on his ouster in the coming weeks. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed the so-called motion to vacate on Friday, over Johnson working with Democrats to pass a massive spending bill, but it’s unclear when she’ll try to force the vote on the floor. At the moment, no other Republicans have said they support her motion.

Gallagher’s decision to not finish out the term also further fuels conference concerns over its trajectory headed into the November election.

“It’s tough, but it’s tough with a five-seat majority, it’s tough with a two-seat majority, one is going to be the same. We all have to work together. We’re all going to have to unite if we’re going get some things done,” Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said shortly after Gallagher announced his early exit.

House lawmakers headed out of D.C. Friday on a two-week recess, meaning the soonest Greene could call for a vote to boot Johnson would be the week of April 8. But she’s indicated that she wants to give the House GOP time to pick a successor before she forces the vote, meaning it could happen after Gallagher’s planned exit on April 19.

If she pushes a vote after that date, Johnson’s already tough task gets harder — it’s possible he’ll have to rely on Democrats to save his speakership. Several have said that they will vote to table Greene’s resolution if Johnson agrees to hold a vote on a Ukraine aid package, a move that would infuriate some conservatives.

Gallagher is one of several House Republicans who decided to call it quits this year as the conference’s coalition of hardliners disrupts every corner of House business. Four other committee chairs — including House Financial Services Chair Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) and House Appropriations Chair Kay Granger (R-Texas) — are retiring at the end of their terms. Granger also announced Friday that she would be leaving her post on Appropriations early.

McHenry and Gallagher’s decisions have sparked particular interest given their ages. Gallagher is 39; McHenry is 48. What’s next for either lawmaker is unclear. Gallagher has said he plans to continue working on national security issues as part of the private sector.

But his premature departure is surprising given that the chair of the Select Committee on China recently nabbed a legacy-making moment: House passage of a bipartisan bill that would force TikTok in the U.S. to sever its ties to the Chinese government. The legislation is now facing an uncertain future in the Senate, where some lawmakers have expressed concerns over its constitutionality.

Gallagher has long been a key centrist voice on foreign policy and national security. He supported military aid to Ukraine, including efforts to provide Ukraine F-16 fighter jets and other advanced hardware. He also led a congressional delegation to Taiwan in February, meeting with then-Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and President-elect Lai Ching-te.

The congressman was also widely viewed as the leading House Republican on cyber policy issues after serving as co-chair of the Congress-established Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which made a plethora of recommendations for cyber legislation that have been adopted in recent years. Gallagher currently serves as chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Cyber, Information Technologies and Innovation.

A House Select China Committee staffer said that they expect that panel’s work to continue uninterrupted into next session.

Gallagher’s departure “is only a speed bump,” the staffer said. “The China piece is something that, as a committee, helps both Democrats and Republicans at a very political time.”

Phelim Kline, Maggie Miller, Jordain Carney and Eric Bazail-Eimil contributed to this report.

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