The House elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) as its 56th speaker on Wednesday, capping a chaotic three weeks that brought the lower chamber to a stunning halt.
By finally coalescing around a new leader, House Republicans hope Johnson can guide them through a series of legislative and policy landmines in the weeks and months to come.
Johnson, who was in his second term as vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, won the speaker’s gavel by a vote of 220 to 209 against Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), thus officially cementing himself as successor to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) following McCarthy’s unprecedented removal earlier this month.
Johnson’s ascension marks the end of a difficult and tumultuous period for the House Republican Party conference, which saw the ouster of McCarthy, fielded four presidential candidates and saw tensions reach a fever pitch. boiling point before choosing Johnson as the next leader.
“Democracy is complicated sometimes,” Johnson told reporters after his nomination Tuesday evening, surrounded by members of the GOP conference. “This House Republican majority is united.”
Even as this tumultuous chapter comes to an end, it will not all be smooth sailing for the House. Congress sets Nov. 17 deadline to fund government or face shutdown, and White House asks lawmakers to approve $100 billion in national security supplement to support Israel and Ukraine in their respective conflicts.
The two legislative lifts will serve as early tests of Johnson’s ability to manage the GOP conference, a daunting task that McCarthy struggled with throughout his nine-month tenure. But the Louisiana Republican, for his part, seems ready — and eager — to take on the challenge.
“The world is on fire. We stand with our ally, Israel,” Johnson said Tuesday evening. “We have a very busy schedule. We have appropriations bills to get through the process. But you will see this group operating like a well-oiled machine.
If the first part of the 118th Congress – and the last few weeks in particular – are any indication, Johnson has his work cut out for him.
Personal animosity, bare-knuckle tactics, moral outrage and even former President Trump kept House Republicans in a doom loop of internal turmoil for three weeks after McCarthy’s stunning ouster.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said hard-liners were too established — and some said his blood cancer diagnosis gave them pause. His main competitor, Freedom Caucus founding chairman turned Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), did not endorse him until hours after winning the nod, and McCarthy openly wondered whether he could win the hammer. Scalise withdrew his name the next day.
Then the conference judged Jordan. But the fury of Scalise’s allies at Jordan’s supporters who tanked Scalise, and an intense pressure campaign that triggered death threats aimed at holdouts, caused him to lose three House votes. The conference then voted to rescind the nomination.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) was next — but criticism over his votes against overturning the 2020 election and in favor of codifying same-sex marriage, as well as vocal opposition of former President Trump, led him to step down. just four hours later.
Ultimately, Johnson — who has a conservative voting history, no major enemies and is generally known as a nice guy — became the consensus choice for Republicans as they exhausted their options, and themselves.
Even a last-minute attempt by McCarthy’s allies to try to reinstall him as president amid the chaos could not stop the conference from rallying around Johnson.
Johnson, 51, has served as vice chairman of the House GOP, a junior leadership position, since 2021. He is also former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, and currently serves in power judiciary of the House. and the armed services committees.
Before joining Congress in 2017, Johnson was a member of the Louisiana State House and a constitutional law attorney who served as a talk show host and college professor. His wife Kelly is a licensed Christian counselor and they have four children.
The mild-mannered Louisiana Republican has remained largely quiet throughout his tenure in Congress, focusing on his work with the House Judiciary Committee and the House Armed Services Committee.
In 2020, Johnson became a key player in Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election. Johnson, then vice chair of the House GOP conference, led an amicus brief supporting a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn voting results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“Today, I have arranged to file an amicus brief in the Texas case currently pending before the Supreme Court on behalf of House Republicans who are all deeply concerned about the integrity of our election system ” Johnson wrote on X on December 8, 2020.
Johnson brushed aside a question Tuesday night about his stance on the 2020 election. Asked about his efforts, the then-president-elect shook his head and replied “next question,” while Republican lawmakers surrounding him booed the journalist and told him to “shut up”.
Democrats, for their part, were quick to point out Johnson’s involvement in the 2020 plot.
“Mike Johnson was one of the main architects of the attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Mike Johnson also wants to end Social Security and Medicare as we know them” , Jeffries said on “CNN This Morning” Wednesday. “These are extreme views, and House Democrats will oppose them aggressively.” »
Throughout the President’s saga, which lasted more than three weeks, Republicans have largely aimed their fire at the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy — a decision that set off the recent chain of events. Lawmakers called for them to be punished and criticized them publicly.
That group – led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) – joined with Democrats to expel the Californian from office on October 3, marking the first time the House has successfully impeached a sitting president. But despite the tensions and heightened rhetoric, members of the “crazy eight,” as McCarthy dubbed them, say they have no regrets.
“It was worth it,” Gaetz said Tuesday night. “I promised the American people that we would improve and elevate the position of Speaker of the House. And when we elect Mike Johnson, I will have kept that commitment.