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Who is Mike Johnson, the new Speaker of the House of Representatives?

Nature

Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana – the fourth Republican to be nominated for Speaker of the House since Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted three weeks ago – won the presidency in a party-line vote Wednesday. The final vote was 220 to 209.

Johnson, who represents a district in western Louisiana, was first elected to the House in 2016. He is a close ally of former President Donald Trump who led many of the 2020 election challenges.

How does Johnson relate to the electoral challenges of 2020?

After the 2020 election, Johnson led an amicus brief signed by more than 100 House Republicans in support of a lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to overturn election results in four swing states won by President Biden.

Rep. Mike Johnson speaks after being elected Republican chairman on Capitol Hill on October 24, 2023.
Rep. Mike Johnson speaks after being elected Republican chairman on Capitol Hill on October 24, 2023.

Win McNamee/Getty Images


The brief claimed that officials and courts in each of the battleground states unconstitutionally usurped the power granted to state lawmakers by changing election rules in 2020. The Supreme Court rejected the claim, saying it lacked of legal basis.

According to the New York Times, about three-quarters of the arguments lawmakers used to justify overturning the election results relied on Johnson’s arguments.

Ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes, Johnson urged lawmakers to follow a “third option,” saying the way states had changed voting rules during the pandemic was unconstitutional, according to The New York Times.

On Tuesday night, he shut down a reporter’s question about whether he wants to overturn the 2020 election results while his fellow Republicans booed.

What is Johnson’s background?

According to Johnson’s House biography, he is a constitutional lawyer who served in the Louisiana Legislature from 2015 to 2017.

His biography touts his “20 years of successfully litigating high-profile constitutional law cases in district and appellate courts across the country and is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading defenders of the right to life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, the Second Amendment and free market principles.

Johnson and his wife, Kelly Johnson, have been married since 1999 and have four children.

What did Johnson do on Capitol Hill?

Although he is not one of the highest-ranking members of the Republican leadership in the House, Johnson currently serves as vice chair of the Republican conference, having won the election among his fellow GOP members.

Johnson is also deputy whip.

How did Johnson end up getting the speaker nomination?

The path to Johnson’s nomination among the Republicans was fraught with pitfalls. McCarthy was the first speaker in history to be removed from office by a House vote, leaving a Republican leadership vacancy while the party holds a slim majority.

After McCarthy’s impeachment, the Republican conference held a closed-door, secret ballot vote for a new speaker nominee between Majority Leader Steve Scalise and right-wing Rep. Jim Jordan, which Scalise won. To scale withdrew his candidacy the next day due to lack of support.

House Republicans subsequently nominated Jordan, although deep divisions remained within the party. A last-minute challenger to Jordan, Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, received about 80 votes, according to members at the meeting, an ominous omen for Jordan’s prospects.

Jordan submitted his nomination and lost three votes in four days. Republicans dropped him as a candidateand nine Republicans finally entered the race to become the next speaker at Tuesday’s conference.

After several rounds of secret and closed-door voting, Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota won and became the next House Republican nominee on Tuesday. But hours later, he withdrew his name after radical conservatives refused to support him based on his vote to certify the 2020 election and his support for same-sex marriage.

The House Republican conference held another speaker forum Tuesday evening and several more rounds of voting, with Johnson winning.

–Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

Nature
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