Speaker-elect Mike Johnson (R-La.) is sworn in to be the fifty sixth Speaker of the House in the House Chamber on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
The House elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) to be the 56th Speaker on Wednesday, capping off a chaotic three weeks that paralyzed the lower chamber in stunning fashion, writes ‘The Hill’.
In finally coalescing around a new leader, House Republicans hope that Johnson can steer them around a series of legislative and political landmines in the weeks and months to come — an objective that is poised to be a heavy lift in the fractured GOP conference.
Johnson, who was in his second term as vice chair of the House Republican Conference, won the Speaker’s gavel in a 220-209 vote over Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), officially cementing himself as successor to former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) following McCarthy’s unprecedented removal earlier this month.
Republicans unanimously supported his election on the House floor.
Johnson’s ascension marks the end of a nasty and tumultuous period for the House GOP conference, which witnessed McCarthy’s ouster, cycled through four Speaker nominees and saw tensions reach a boiling point before settling on Johnson as its next leader.
“We’re in the majority right now,” Johnson said in a news conference on the House steps following his swearing-in as Speaker. “We’ve gone through a little bit of character building, and you know what it’s produced, more strength, more perseverance, and a lot of hope.”
“And that’s what we’re about to deliver to the American people,” he added.
While that tempestuous chapter has come to a close, it will not be all smooth sailing ahead for the House. Congress is staring down a Nov. 17 deadline to fund the government or risk a shutdown, and the White House is asking lawmakers to approve a $100 billion national security supplemental to support Israel and Ukraine amid their respective conflicts.
The two legislative efforts will serve as early tests of Johnson’s ability to manage the rabble-rousing GOP conference, a tall task that McCarthy struggled with throughout his nine-month tenure.
Johnson became his conference’s fourth nominee to replace McCarthy, and he takes over in the midst of multiple international crises, most notably in Israel, Gaza and Ukraine. There has been a split in the House GOP over aid to Ukraine for its war against Russia, making the passage of some recent bills a tough hill to climb in the lower chamber.
Johnson has shown some resistance to more funding for Ukraine in the past but seems to wholeheartedly support Israel.
Johnson made a strong statement in support of Ukraine in its effort to fight back against Russia in the wake of the invasion in February 2022.
However, in recent times, he has taken a skeptical stance toward aid for Ukraine. He voted against two different appropriations bills that provided aid to Ukraine, one in 2022 and another last month.
“American taxpayers have sent over $100 billion in aid to Ukraine in the last year,” Johnson said in an X post in February. “They deserve to know if the Ukrainian government is being entirely forthcoming and transparent about the use of this massive sum of taxpayer resources.”
President Biden announced the sending of a budget request to Congress requesting aid for both Israel and Ukraine in a speech last Thursday. The request is expected to be about $100 billion, with a large portion of the funds for Ukraine.
Johnson has been strong in his support for Israel amid its conflict with Palestinian militant group Hamas. Just hours after electing Johnson as Speaker, the House brought up a bipartisan resolution supporting Israel. Lawmakers were eager to consider the legislation following Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on Oct. 7, but the Speaker stalemate left the chamber unable to conduct any legislative business.
Johnson on Wednesday assured the U.S.’s allies and enemies around the globe that Congress is back on track.
Personal animosity, bare-knuckle tactics, moral outrage and even former President Trump kept House Republicans in a doom loop of internal turmoil for three weeks following McCarthy’s stunning ouster.
The 51-year-old Johnson has been the House GOP’s vice chair, a junior leadership position, since 2021. He is also a former chair of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, and currently serves on the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees.
Before joining Congress in 2017, Johnson was a member of the Louisiana State House and a constitutional law attorney who had stints as a talk show host and a college professor. His wife, Kelly, is a licensed Christian counselor, and they have four children.
In 2020, Johnson emerged as a key player in Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election. Johnson, then the vice chair of the House GOP conference, led an amicus brief backing a Texas lawsuit that sought to reverse the outcomes of the vote in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Johnson brushed off a question about his stance on the 2020 election Tuesday night. Asked about his efforts, the then-Speaker designate shook his head and said, “Next question,” while GOP lawmakers surrounding him booed the reporter and told her to “shut up.”
Democrats, for their part, have been quick to point out Johnson’s involvement in the 2020 plot.
“Mike Johnson was one of the chief architects of trying to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Mike Johnson also wants to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it,” Jeffries said on “CNN This Morning” on Wednesday. “Those are extreme views, and House Democrats will push back aggressively against that.”
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