House finally has a speaker as Mike Johnson wins after weeks of chaos

Mike Johnson is a hardliner on abortion and LGBT+ rights and led an amicus brief to overturn the 2020 election results in swing states

Eric Garcia
Wednesday 25 October 2023 22:58 BST
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Mike Johnson addresses congress for first time as House speaker

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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House Republicans overwhelmingly elected Rep Mike Johnson (R-LA) to be the next speaker of the House, after 22 days where the House of Representatives had no leader amid turmoil across the globe as well as the need to pass spending bills next month.

Mr Johnson, the former deputy whip for House Republicans, won 220 votes on the floor after House Republicans coalesced around him on Tuesday evening. His ascent came after House majority whip Tom Emmer dropped out a mere four hours after the House Republican conference nominated him to be speaker.

Republicans from all factions of the conference cheered Mr Johnson and whistled on the floor, chanting his name. After conservatives, led by former president Donald Trump, revolted against Mr Emmer, he removed himself from the running and, after another contest, Mr Johnson emerged victorious.

A former attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, Mr Johnson is considered an arch-social conservative staunchly opposed to abortion. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation that would have made it illegal to transport a person under the age of 18 across state lines to obtain an abortion without parental notification.

He is also an ardent opponent of LGBT+ rights. In response, Rep Angie Craig (D-MN), the first openly gay mother in Congress, said “Happy anniversary to my wife,” before casting her vote for House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries.

In addition, in December 2020, Mr Johnson, a lawyer by trade, filed an amicus brief on behalf of himself and 125 other House Republicans for a lawsuit filed by Texas to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Despite his hard-right background, many Republicans from swing districts cast their vote for him on the floor enthusiastically. The vote came 22 days after former speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted after Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed a motion to vacate the chair, which triggered a non-confidence vote. That in turn triggered a three-week frenzy to find a new speaker.

House majority leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee chair Jim Jordan then faced off to become the nominee but as soon as Mr Scalise beat Mr Jordan, arch-conservatives rebelled and pledged to oppose Mr Scalise on the floor, which led to him removing himself from the running.

In response, Republicans nominated Mr Jordan, who failed after three votes last week before Republicans voted in a secret ballot to drop him.

Mr Johnson now faces numerous challenges leading the House. The House must pass some kind of spending bill before 17 November to keep the government open. Republicans and Democrats also hope to pass a bill to provide aid to Israel, while many Republicans oppose a supplemental package to aid Ukraine.

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