Wednesday, October 25th 2023, 10:10 pm
The United States House of Representatives is back in business.
After 22 days, four nominees, and immeasurable frustration, the Republican conference, with its slim majority, was able to tally enough votes Wednesday to elect a new Speaker of the House -- 51-year-old conservative Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson -- and end the paralysis that's gripped the House since Kevin McCarthy was removed October 3.
Johnson quickly convened the House and passed a resolution -- 412-10 -- expressing support for Israel (H. Res. 771 - Standing with Israel as it defends itself against the barbaric war launched by Hamas and other terrorists) and started debate on an appropriations bill.
As dysfunctional as Republicans appeared yesterday, members acted in lockstep today, finally putting an end to weeks of infighting and acrimony and giving their unanimous support to Johnson.
Even before the votes were cast Wednesday, it seemed clear this election would be different. Capitol staff could be seen wheeling out furniture from the Speaker's office, and the Oklahoma delegation's most staunch conservative, Rep. Josh Brecheen, was singing Johnson's praises.
"He’s a man of principle, and he’s got a deep rudder," said Brecheen (R-OK2) in an interview Wednesday morning. "The confidence behind Mike Johnson is a confidence in somebody whose character is deeply grounded."
As with all of the Speaker votes this year, Democrats were unanimous in supporting their nominee, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. They took strong exception to Speaker Johnson's nomination, noting that he voted to overturn the 2020 election results, opposes same-sex marriage, and supports the notion of a nationwide ban on abortion.
Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-CA), in his floor speech nominating Jeffries, said Johnson's actions and beliefs put him in line with the Republican party's most extreme elements: "This has been about one thing," Aguilar said, "this has been about who can appease Donald Trump."
In the end, the nomination appeased the entire GOP conference, including Oklahoma's Kevin Hern, who had his own sights set on the Speakership for a while.
"You’re going to make an incredible Speaker of the House," Hern (R-OK1) said on social media, "and I can’t wait to help where I can."
After being sworn in, Speaker Johnson expressed his gratitude and acknowledged that the last three weeks have been difficult at times.
"We've gone through a little bit of character building," Speaker Johnson said on the Capitol steps, "and you know what it's produced? More strength, more perseverance, and a lot of hope."
Johnson says he's going to deliver that hope to the American people.
Congressman Brecheen says Johnson's election has already given him hope because he says Johnson understands and believes in the Constitution.
"He understands what our founders set up," Brecheen said, "and my hope is that it’s going to hold him firm when it comes time to make the hard choices."
Those 'hard choices' will come quickly, as the deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown is now just three weeks away.
After the 2020 election, Johnson led an amicus brief signed by more than 100 House Republicans in support of a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to overturn the election results in four swing states won by President Biden.
The brief claimed that the officials and courts in each of the battleground states unconstitutionally usurped the power granted to state legislators by changing election rules in 2020. The Supreme Court rejected the request, saying it lacked legal standing.
According to The New York Times, about three-quarters of the arguments that lawmakers used to justify overturning the election results relied on arguments from Johnson.
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 the states had changed voting rules during the pandemic had been unconstitutional, according to The New York Times.
On Tuesday night, he shut down a question from a reporter about his push to overturn the 2020 election results while his fellow Republicans booed.
According to Johnson's House biography, he is a constitutional lawyer who served in the Louisiana legislature from 2015 until 2017.
His biography touts his "20 years successfully litigating high profile constitutional law cases in district and appellate courts nationwide and is widely recognized as a leading defender of the right to life, religious liberty, free speech, the Second Amendment and free market principles."
Johnson and his wife, Kelly Johnson, have been married since 1999 and they have four children.
While not one of the highest-ranking members of Republican leadership in the House, Johnson currently serves as the vice chair of the Republican conference, having won election from his fellow GOP members.
Johnson also serves as a deputy whip.
The road to Johnson's nomination among Republicans has been messy. McCarthy was the first speaker in history to be removed by a vote on the House floor, leaving a vacancy in the Republican leadership while the party holds a razor-thin majority.
After McCarthy was removed, 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. Scalise withdrew his nomination the next day due to a lack of support.
House Republicans then nominated Jordan, although the deep divisions remained within the party. A last-minute challenger to Jordan, Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, received roughly 80 votes, according to members in the meeting, an ominous omen for Jordan's prospects.
Jordan took his nomination to the floor, and went on to lose three floor votes over four days. Republicans dropped him as the nominee, and nine Republicans ultimately jumped in the race to be the next speaker at Tuesday's conference meeting.
After several rounds of closed-door, secret ballot voting, Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota prevailed and became House Republicans' next nominee on Tuesday. But within hours, he withdrew his name from consideration after hardline conservatives refused to back him based on his vote to certify the 2020 election and his support of same-sex marriage.
The House Republican conference held another speaker forum Tuesday night and several more rounds of voting, with Johnson prevailing.
October 25th, 2023
November 27th, 2023
October 27th, 2023
October 23rd, 2023
December 4th, 2023
December 4th, 2023
December 4th, 2023
December 4th, 2023