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Mike Johnson: The House chose a hard-right Republican, to be the speaker

Mike Johnson: The House chose a hard-right Republican, to be speaker
Mike Johnson: The House chose a hard-right Republican, to be the speaker

Republicans turned to a little-known Louisiana lawmaker who led congressional efforts to overturn the 2020 election, ending a weeks-long standoff that had paralyzed the House.

Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana won the election on Wednesday to become the 56th speaker of the House of Representatives, as Republicans tired of three weeks of infighting and dysfunction turned to a little-known conservative hardliner beloved by the far right to end their paralysis. Did. ,

The promotion of Mr. Johnson, 51, the architect of the effort to overturn the 2020 election and a religious conservative opposed to abortion rights, homosexuality, and gay marriage, further solidified the Republican Party’s authority. It followed a historic battle that began when hard-right hawks ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Oct. 3 and left the divided House G.O.P. As the commotion continued. Nominated and then immediately rejected three other candidates as his successor.

Tired of the feud, which sparked a volley of accusations and violent threats against lawmakers, both right-wing and mainstream Republicans ultimately united to elect Mr. Johnson, 51, in a 220 to 209 vote.

The vote moved him into second in line for the presidency, ending an extraordinary period of ups and downs on Capitol Hill. It’s a victory for the far right that has become a dominant force in the Republican Party, emerging this month to effectively direct the ouster of an establishment speaker and the installation of an arch-conservative replacement.

On Wednesday, the interim speaker, Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, announced that Mr. Johnson was “duly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives,” prompting Republicans to rise to their feet and applaud.

In a speech that traced Louisiana’s climb up the political ladder in Congress, Mr. Johnson pledged to try to “restore the people’s confidence in this House.” He cited sending aid to Israel, fixing the “broken” southern border, and reining in federal spending as his top legislative priorities.

“The challenge before us is huge, but the time for action is now,” Mr Johnson said shortly after being elected. “And I will not let you down.”

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Citing his evangelical Christian faith, Mr. Johnson repeatedly referred to scripture in his speech to the House.

“The Bible is very clear that God is the one who lifts up those in authority,” he said. “He lifted up each one of you, all of us. And I believe God has appointed and allowed each of us to be here for this specific moment.”

Pointing to growing frustration among the party’s hard-right faction that ultimately ousted Mr. McCarthy, Republican of California, Mr. Johnson pledged that his office “will be known for decentralization of power.”

Mr. Johnson, who was elected to Congress in 2016, is the youngest politician to hold the position of Speaker in many years.

He may also be the most conservative. Mr. Johnson, an attorney, is the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee and sponsored legislation that would effectively prevent discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in any institution serving children under the age of 10 that receives federal funding. He supports a national abortion ban and co-sponsored the 20-week abortion ban.

Mr. Johnson met former President Donald J. Served on Trump’s impeachment defense team and played a leading role in recruiting House Republicans to sign legal briefs supporting the lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results. He was also the architect of Mr. Trump’s bid to object to his certification by Congress on January 6, 2021. Mr. Trump praised the Louisiana Republican on Wednesday after his election, calling him “a wonderful gentleman”.

“He’s going to do a great job,” Mr. Trump said.

Democrats were scathing in assessing Mr. Johnson’s ascension to the speakership. Representative Pete Aguilar of California, chairman of the Democratic convention, said the speakership battle had turned into a contest of “who can please Donald Trump.” In that line, a handful of hard-right Republicans stood and applauded.

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When they turned out to vote for Mr. Johnson, they upset mainstream Republicans who face tough re-election contests in swing districts next year.

One Democrat could be heard yelling, “Bye!” as Representatives Mike Lawler and Mark Molinaro of New York voted in favor of the Louisiana Republican.

Mr Johnson immediately faces the same challenges that troubled his predecessor, Mr McCarthy. They face a mid-November deadline to pass a measure to fund the government to avert a shutdown. He will need to lead a deeply divided conference on foreign policy as Congress confronts Israel, Ukraine, and the South.

Mr. Johnson has opposed continued funding for the war in Ukraine, which the G.O.P. has emerged as a bitter mistake. And in the coming days, he will have to deal with costly battles.

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

Asked whether he was worried, given the history of Republican speakers, that he would try again to overturn the election in 2024, Mr Biden answered bluntly: “No. Just like I wasn’t worried that the last campaign would overturn the election.

Later on Wednesday, Mr. Biden made the following statement: “We need to move quickly to meet our national security needs and avoid a shutdown in 22 days. “Even though we have genuine disagreements on important issues, we should still make mutual efforts to find common ground wherever possible.”

In the end, it was Mr. Johnson who was able to bring together both the hard-right and mainstream wings of the party, defeating the Speaker candidates in turn. But the unity was partly the result of irritation among House Republicans, who despite their differences had become eager to end the weeks-long spectacle of mass dysfunction and paralysis that many said had led to His constituents were distraught.

“From an outside perspective these last few weeks have probably looked like a state of complete chaos, confusion, with no end in sight,” said Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the No. 3 Republican. The hard-right wing of his party. “But from my perspective, it is one of the greatest experiences in the recent history of our republic.”

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Mainstream Conservatives who support Mr Johnson said they expected him to take quick action to get the House out of its funk. Almost immediately after Mr Johnson was elected, MPs began debating a motion expressing solidarity with Israel and condemning Hamas, which passed by an overwhelming majority.

Mr. Lawler posted a photo of himself and Mr. Johnson shaking hands-on social media, writing, “Although there are issues where we differ, we must get back to governing for the good of the country.”

A faction of Republicans had objected to the speakership of Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the far-right co-founder of the Freedom Caucus, because of his role in leading Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. But some people said they did not have the same concerns about Mr. Johnson.

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

And hard-right Republicans, who voted to oust Mr. McCarthy from office, setting in motion three weeks of chaos that left the House without a leader, said they were prepared to take over from Mr. Johnson for the top job. The reason was his decision to remove the California Republican from office. it.

“This reaffirms the path that we took,” said Representative Bob Good of Virginia.

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