Rep. Mike Johnson Elected as 56th Speaker of the House After Weeks of GOP Turmoil

Louisiana Republican Kevin McCarthy elected Speaker of the House, becoming second in line to the presidency. His election ends a three-week impasse that had paralyzed the chamber.

Louisiana Representative Mike Johnson, a relatively obscure figure, was elected Speaker of the House on Wednesday, ending three weeks of turmoil on Capitol Hill.

Mike Johnson, a conservative Donald Trump ally and low-ranking Republican leader, was elected Speaker of the House in a stunning turn of events. Known for his affability, Johnson is arguably the most ideologically conservative speaker since Newt Gingrich in the 1990s and played a key role in the GOP’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

After a chaotic three weeks, the GOP showed remarkable unity, with all 220 Republicans voting for Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House. All 209 Democrats voted for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

“We want our allies around the world to know that this body of lawmakers is again to our duty stations,” Johnson, 51, said in his address to the House chamber after Jeffries embraced him and handed him the gavel. “Let the enemies of freedom around the world hear us loud and clear — the people’s House is back in business.”

Johnson’s election represents a brief truce in the ongoing GOP civil war, which erupted when Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and seven other Republican rebels joined with Democrats to oust Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House.

In the following weeks, various factions of the 221-member GOP Conference clashed over who should succeed McCarthy, paralyzing the House of Representatives and preventing any legislative work from proceeding amid the looming threat of a government shutdown and ongoing wars in Ukraine and the Middle East.

The commencement of Johnson’s responsibilities is imminent. He faces the pressing tasks of collaborating within his party and with the Biden White House to resolve government funding issues before the looming November 17 deadline. Additionally, he must navigate the delivery of crucial aid packages to key U.S. allies, including Ukraine and Israel.

President Joe Biden reached out to offer his congratulations to Johnson, as confirmed by the White House.

The process within the GOP to select a new speaker resembled the unpredictability of the arcade game “whack-a-mole.” Initially, Republicans nominated their No. 2 leader, Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who withdrew within 36 hours due to opponents thwarting his path to secure the necessary 217 floor votes.

Following Scalise, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio stepped up, but after three unsuccessful floor votes, he also withdrew from contention. The party’s next choice was Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the No. 3 Republican. However, he realized he couldn’t secure the required 217 votes, especially after facing opposition from former President Trump, leading to his resignation shortly after winning the nomination.

Johnson was able to bring unity to the fractured conference by combining favorable timing with his conservative stance and his reputation for being amicable. As the protracted speaker crisis wore on, Johnson’s appeal grew. Backed by Trump and close right-wing allies, the well-liked, four-term lawmaker, who had few political adversaries within the Capitol, emerged as a fresh face among a plethora of long-serving, veteran leaders.

When nominating Johnson, House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik emphasized his character, stating, “A friend to all and an enemy to none … And above all, Mike is kind.” Representative Darin LaHood, unprompted, described Johnson as a rare individual in Washington with no political enemies. He further praised Johnson’s qualities, stating, “He’s a really nice guy. He’s a true family man. He’s a man of faith, gets along with everybody. It doesn’t mean he’s not principled or conservative — clearly he is.”

During the inaugural hearing of the GOP’s special committee investigating government weaponization, of which Johnson is a member, he demonstrated his listening skills by engaging with Rep. Kat Cammack of Florida, asking her about her interests and preferences for the committee’s work. Cammack spoke highly of Johnson, highlighting his ability to quietly rally people in a climate where everyone vies for prominence and amidst a predominantly alpha-male-dominated environment.

As the GOP Conference vice chairman, a position he has held since 2021, Johnson occupies the seventh-ranking spot on the Republican leadership team. His remarkable elevation to the role of speaker from this relatively low-level position is a rarity, evoking comparisons to former Illinois Republican Rep. Denny Hastert’s ascension in 1999 from chief deputy whip to speaker, following Georgia Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich’s resignation.

Notably, Johnson, who has represented his northwestern Louisiana district since 2017, marks history as the first speaker elected from that state. His election also resulted in the top two Republicans in leadership, Johnson and Scalise, both hailing from Louisiana.

A protege of both Scalise and Jordan, Johnson followed in their footsteps, with all three having served in the state Legislature before winning congressional seats. They also all chaired the conservative Republican Study Committee, using it as a launching pad for leadership positions. Johnson, a former talk-radio host and a lawyer with expertise in constitutional law, worked under Jordan on the Judiciary Committee and led the panel’s subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government.

A staunch ally of former President Trump, Johnson played a pivotal role in the GOP’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results. He led an amicus brief, endorsed by 100 Republicans, supporting a Texas lawsuit aimed at invalidating the results of the 2020 election in four swing states won by Biden. The New York Times even recognized Johnson as “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections.”

In keeping with tradition, prior to passing the gavel to Johnson, Jeffries, the Democratic leader, described the new speaker as a family man, a hard worker, a man of faith, a Southern gentleman, and a son of a firefighter’s household. However, when accepting the Democratic nomination for speaker, Jeffries recounted moments when America’s democracy faced severe trials, including the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by thousands of Trump supporters attempting to obstruct the certification of Biden’s victory. This narrative elicited both jeers from Republicans and cheers from Democrats.

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