The House elects Mike Johnson Speaker, ending three weeks of chaos

Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana won election as the 56th speaker of the House on Wednesday, ending three weeks of chaos that left the chamber without a leader and exposed Republican divisions.

Republicans elevated Mr. Johnson, 51, a little-known and deeply conservative lawmaker, after a heated battle. It began after the hard right ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and raged as a divided House Republican nominated and then quickly rejected three other candidates to succeed him.

Fed up with the brutal clashes that have sparked a barrage of accusations and violent threats against lawmakers, both the party’s hard-right wing and mainstream Republicans united to elect Mr. Johnson by a 220-209 vote.

Republicans rose to their feet and applauded after Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, the speaker pro tempore, declared that Mr. Johnson was “the duly elected Speaker of the House.”

A socially conservative lawyer who opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, Mr. Johnson has also played a leading role in congressional efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Wednesday’s vote put him in second place in the presidency, ending a remarkable period of upheaval on Capitol Hill. The far right that had become the dominant force in the Republican Party rose up and effectively dictated the removal of the establishment and the installation of an archconservative replacement.

In a speech that followed his climb up the political ladder in Louisiana to Congress, Mr. Johnson promised to try to “restore the faith of the people in this House.” He listed sending aid to Israel, fixing the “broken” southern border and reining in federal spending as his top legislative priorities.

“The challenge ahead is great, but now is the time to act,” Mr Johnson said shortly after being elected. “And I won’t let you down.”

Evoking his evangelical Christian faith, Mr. Johnson repeatedly referred to Scripture. “The Bible is very clear that it is God who raises up those in authority,” he said. “He raised each of you, all of us. And I believe that God has ordained and allowed each of us to be brought here for this appointed time.”

In a sign of smoldering frustrations among the hard-right wing of the party that eventually replaced Mr. Mr McCarthy, a California Republican, was promised by Mr Johnson that his office would “be known for the decentralization of power”.

Elected to Congress in 2016, Mr. Johnson is the youngest lawmaker in decades to become president.

Perhaps he is the most conservative. Mr. Johnson is a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and has sponsored legislation that effectively bans discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in any institution serving children under 10 that receives federal funding.

He served under former President Donald J. Trump impeachment defense teamhe played a leading role in recruiting House Republicans to sign a legal filing supporting a lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results and was the architect of Mr. Trump’s attempt to oppose their certification in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

The Democrats were harsh in their assessment of Mr. Johnson’s rise to the presidency. Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, chairman of the Democratic conference, said the battle for speaker had turned into a contest over “who can appease Donald Trump.” At that line, a handful of hard-right Republicans stood and applauded.

They upset mainstream Republicans who face tough re-election contests next year in various districts as they voted for Mr. Johnson. After Reps. Mike Lawler and Marc Molinaro, both from New York, voted for the Louisiana Republican, one Democrat could be heard yelling, “Bye-bye!”

Mr. Johnson immediately faces many of the challenges that followed his predecessor, Mr. McCarthy. He faces a deadline of mid-November to pass a government funding measure to avert a shutdown. And he will have to lead a conference deeply divided over foreign policy as Congress considers the Biden administration’s request for $105 billion in funding for Israel, Ukraine and the southern border.

Mr. Johnson has opposed continued funding for the war in Ukraine, which has emerged as a bitter fault line in the GOP and in the spending battles it will have to navigate in the coming days.

After President Biden was told at a White House press conference that a new speaker had been chosen, Mr. Biden said, “I hope that’s true. Because we have to go.”

Asked if he was worried, given the Republican president’s history, that he would try to overturn the election again in 2024, Mr. Biden flatly replied: “No. Just like I wasn’t worried about the last campaign overturning the election.”

Mr. Johnson was able to rally both the party’s hard-right and mainstream flanks, which took turns sinking speaker candidates. But it was also clear that Republicans were eager to put an end to a weeks-long spectacle of mass dysfunction and paralysis that many said had left their constituents distraught.

“From an outside perspective these last few weeks probably look like total chaos, confusion, no end in sight,” said Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the No. 3 Republican who was ousted by his party hours after being nominated for speaker. right side. But from my perspective, this is one of the greatest experiences in the recent history of our republic.

Mainstream Conservatives backing Mr Johnson said they were eager to break the House from the gridlock.

“Although there are issues where we differ, we must return to governing for the good of the country,” wrote Mr. Lawler on social media, posting a photo of himself and Mr. Johnson shaking hands.

A bloc of Republicans opposed the presidential bid of Jim Jordan of Ohio, a co-founder of the Freedom Party, because of his role in helping lead Mr. Trump’s effort to overturn the election. But some said they did not have the same concerns about Mr. Johnson.

Representative Ken Buck of Colorado said Mr. Johnson was not involved in post-election efforts to overturn the results, although Mr. Johnson was a key player in those activities. “People can make mistakes and still be really good speakers,” Mr. Buck said.

And the hard-right Republicans who voted for the overthrow of Mr. McCarthy, setting off three weeks of chaos that left the House of Representatives without a leader, they said Mr. Johnson’s rise to the top led to their decision to oust the California Republican. that.

“This validates the path we’re on,” said Virginia Rep. Bob Good.

He contributed to the reporting Luke Broadwater, Robert Jimison, Kayla Guo, Michael D. Shear and Erica L. Green.

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