Republicans choose Mike Johnson as latest GOP nominee for House speaker
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans have chosen Rep. Mike Johnson as their latest candidate for House speaker, desperate to unite their split majority and end the chaos, just hours after a previous pick abruptly withdrew facing opposition from Donald Trump.
Louisiana’s Johnson, an inferior member of the House GOP leadership team, becomes the fourth Republican nominee in what has become an almost absurd cycle of political infighting since the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as GOP factions clash. fight for power.
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When the House meets at noon Wednesday before a floor vote, Johnson, who won a majority behind closed doors, will need almost every Republican on the public call to take the gavel.
“Mike! Mike! Mike!” Lawmakers chanted at a news conference Tuesday night, surrounding Johnson and posing for selfies in a show of support.
Three weeks later, Republicans are squandering their majority status — a maddening embarrassment for some, democracy in action for others, but not at all how the House is supposed to work.
Refusing to unify, far-right members will not accept a more traditional speaker and moderate conservatives do not want a hard line. While Johnson had no opponents in the private call, around 20 Republicans did not vote, more than enough to derail his nomination.
Anxious and exhausted, Republican lawmakers are desperately trying to move on. “Pretty sad commentary on governance right now,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. “Maybe on the fourth, fifth, sixth or tenth try we’ll succeed.”
After stepping aside Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Tom Emmer quickly left the building where he was meeting privately with Republicans. He later said on Capitol Hill that Trump’s opposition did not affect his decision to step down.
“I made my decision based on my relationship with the conference,” he said, referring to the Republican majority. Emmer said he would support whoever is the new candidate. “We will get there. »
Trump, speaking as he left the New York courtroom where he faces charges of business fraud, said his “refusal” must have had an impact on Emmer’s candidacy.
“He wasn’t MAGA,” said Trump, the party’s front-runner for the 2024 presidential election, referring to his Make America Great Again campaign slogan.
House Republicans have returned behind closed doors, where they spend much of their time, desperately searching for a leader who can unite the factions, reopen the House and put the U.S. Congress back to work.
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Attention quickly turned to Johnson, 51, who was the second highest vote getter in Tuesday morning’s internal polls.
A lawyer specializing in constitutional issues, Johnson had rallied Republicans around Trump’s legal efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Elevating Johnson as president would give Louisianans two high-ranking Republican leaders, putting him above Majority Leader Steve Scalise, who was rejected by hard-liners in his own presidential bid.
But hardliners quickly resisted Johnson’s candidacy and a new slate of candidates emerged. Among them were Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, a Trump ally who ran third in the morning poll, and a few others.
In the end, Johnson won 128 votes in the evening vote, more than any other candidate. McCarthy, who was not listed on the ballot, won a surprising 43 votes.
“Democracy is complicated sometimes, but it’s our system,” Johnson said afterward, with Scalise standing behind him. “We will restore your confidence in what we do here. »
One idea floating around, first reported by NBC News, was to reinstall McCarthy as spokesman with hardline Rep. Jim Jordan in a new leadership role.
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Lawmakers said the plan was presented as a way to unify the conference, but many said it wouldn’t work.
“I think sometimes it’s good to have new ideas and new people,” said Rep. Victoria Spartaz, R-Ind.
While Emmer won a simple majority in a closed-door morning call — 117 votes — he lost more than two dozen Republicans, leaving him well short of what will be needed in the upcoming count. bedroom.
With Republicans controlling the House 221 to 212 against Democrats, any Republican candidate can afford only a few detractors to win the gavel.
Trump allies, including influential far-right firebrand Steve Bannon, have criticized Emmer. Some point to his support for an initiative on same-sex marriage and perceived criticism of the former president. Among the far-right groups pressuring lawmakers over the president’s vote, some were quick to attack Emmer.
After rejecting top replacements Scalise and Trump-backed Jordan, there are no obvious choices for the job.
“We’re in the same bind,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
Yet Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., one of the hard-liners, said, “This is what democracy looks like.” »
Republicans have been struggling all month, unable to conduct day-to-day business as they fight among themselves to deal with daunting challenges ahead.
The federal government faces a shutdown within weeks if Congress fails to pass funding legislation by a Nov. 17 deadline to keep services and offices operating. More immediately, President Joe Biden has asked Congress to provide $105 billion in aid — to help Israel and Ukraine in their wars and to shore up the U.S. border with Mexico. Federal aviation and agriculture programs are at risk of expiring without action.
Many hard-liners resisted a leader who voted for the budget deal McCarthy reached with Biden earlier this year, which set federal spending levels that far-right Republicans are not comfortable with. agreement and now want to cancel. They plan to further cut federal programs and services until next month’s funding deadline.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said she wanted assurances that the nominees would pursue impeachment investigations against Biden and other senior Cabinet officials.
During the turmoil, the House is now led by an acting speaker, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the bow-tie-wearing chairman of the Financial Services Committee. Its main task is to elect a more permanent president.
Some Republicans – and Democrats – would simply like to give McHenry more power to carry out the routine tasks of governing. But McHenry, the first person to hold the position created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as an emergency measure, refused to support those overtures.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.