Mike Johnson Elected as House Speaker, Ending Weeks of GOP Deadlock
The House of Representatives elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) to the coveted position of Speaker of the House Wednesday, ending a 22-day deadlock that left the chamber at a standstill. His unanimous election by the GOP marked an end to a saga filled with failed nominations and party infighting.
Rise to the Gavel
Rep. Mike Johnson, a staunch conservative and seasoned constitutional lawyer, emerged as a viable option within a fractured Republican caucus. His election followed a period that saw three higher-profile nominees bowing out amid an inability to secure majority support. The newfound Speaker’s first act in office was to navigate the House toward a unanimous resolution in support of Israel.
“The people’s house is back in business,” Johnson proclaimed in his maiden speech in the chamber, hinting at a potential thaw in legislative action that had been halted by the leadership vacuum.
He ascended to the position with a clean sweep of votes from all 220 Republicans present, contrasting sharply with the internal divisions that had plagued previous attempts to elect a Speaker. The Democrats rallied behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who garnered all 209 votes from his party.
A Deeper Dive Into Mike Johnson’s Political Journey
With a tenure spanning over half a decade in the House, Johnson has carved a niche as a policy-driven conservative. His stances against abortion, LGBTQ rights, and support for former President Donald Trump, particularly during the impeachment hearings and post-election disputes, underscore his alignment with the conservative faction of the GOP.
His commitment to “chart a new path” resonates with a party scrambling for unity in the face of legislative deadlines and international crises.
Johnson’s election marks a historic point as he is noted to be the least experienced representative to clinch the speaker’s position in 140 years. Despite only being in his fourth term, his relatively lesser-known status outside the Capitol played in his favor. A report by Axios showed that speakers typically spent an average of 18 years in the chamber before rising to this paramount role, a precedent starkly highlighted by John McCormack, who served for 33 years before taking up the speaker’s mantle from 1962 to 1971. Johnson’s case is reminiscent of John G. Carlisle’s election to the position in 1883, with six years of experience in the chamber before taking the Speaker position.
Prior to his congressional tenure, Johnson had already established himself as a formidable figure in Louisiana’s political landscape. As a constitutional lawyer, he was known for championing conservative values, often engaging in legal battles that resonated with the Republican base.
His transition to the political arena was seen as a natural progression, where he continued to advocate for conservative ideologies. During his time in the Louisiana Legislature, Johnson was known for his conservative stance on various issues, providing a glimpse into the legislative approach he might adopt as the Speaker.
In a candid address on the House floor, Rep. Pete Aguilar labeled Johnson as the “architect of Electoral College objections,” shedding light on Johnson’s stance during the turbulent aftermath of the 2020 election. Notably, Johnson cast a vote against certifying the election outcome and actively solicited support from his Republican peers for a legal brief challenging the results in several states.
While the contentious issue of decertifying the 2020 election emerged during discussions among the Republicans, it didn’t serve as a disqualifying factor for speaker candidates. This stance resonated with a considerable faction of the Republican conference, who shared similar voting records on the matter.
Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), known for his critiques of the GOP’s right flank, emphasized the urgency of moving past internal discord. “I think it’s really important we get a speaker and move forward,” Buck said. He added, “I’m not electing someone I’m going to marry; I’m not electing someone I’m going to raise children with. I’m electing someone who’s going to lead the conference.”
On the Agenda Front for Mike Johnson
In his first hours as Speaker, Mike Johnson showcased an appetite for swift action, steering the House toward passing a resolution supporting Israel against Hamas. The measure saw an overwhelming approval with a 412 to 10 vote, marking a rare moment of unity in a polarized atmosphere.
His agenda also hinted at a willingness to work towards averting a looming government shutdown, with government funding set to expire on November 17.
With Johnson’s elevation, a vacancy has emerged for the position of conference vice chair, a role he previously held. GOP Rep. Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma has expressed interest in the position, indicative of a seamless transition within the GOP ranks.
A Recap of a Turbulent Journey
The path leading to Johnson’s election was marred by a series of unsuccessful nominations. The most recent, Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), withdrew his candidacy mere hours post-nomination, reflecting the deep-seated divisions within the GOP. This followed the earlier withdrawals of Steve Scalise and the failed nomination of Jim Jordan.
Emmer’s candidacy had stirred a hornet’s nest due to his stance on the 2020 election certification, which drew ire from both Trump loyalists and moderates.
In his own words, former President Trump labeled a vote for Emmer as a “tragic mistake”, amplifying the discord that has become synonymous with the speaker’s race.
All the turmoil started with the ousting of Kevin McCarthy as the Speaker, marking a period of deep fissure within the Republican party. McCarthy’s removal came amid escalating tensions within the party, primarily fueled by his increasingly strained relationship with hard-right factions. His approach to key issues and stance towards former President Trump had been a point of contention, leading to a lack of consensus among the Republicans. This culminated in a dramatic ouster, propelling the House into a phase of uncertainty that lasted until Johnson’s election. The inability to quickly find McCarthy’s successor highlighted the ideological divides and power struggles continuing to roil the GOP.
As Speaker Johnson settles into his new role, the eyes of the nation remain fixated on how he navigates the complex terrains of intra-party politics, bipartisan dialogues, and pressing legislative agendas.
Under Johnson’s helm, the GOP faces the task of restoring unity and functional governance in a time of unprecedented challenges. The unfolding narrative will not only shape the legislative discourse but potentially have lasting ramifications on the broader political landscape as the 2024 elections loom on the horizon.