Guess what? We finally have a new Speaker of the House

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 a stunning fashion.

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 chairman 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.

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 their next leader.

“Democracy is messy sometimes,” Johnson told reporters following his nomination Tuesday night, surrounded by members of the GOP conference. “This House Republican majority is united.”

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. But the Louisiana Republican, for his part, appears ready — and eager — to take on the challenge.

“The world is on fire. We stand with our ally, Israel,” Johnson said Tuesday evening. “We have a very busy agenda. We have appropriations bills to get through the process. But you will see this group working like a well-oiled machine.”

If the first part of the 118th Congress — and past few weeks, especially — are any indication, Johnson has his work cut out for him.

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.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), hard-liners said, was too establishment — and some said his blood cancer diagnosis gave them pause. His chief competition, founding Freedom Caucus Chairman-turned-Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), only endorsed him hours after he won the nod, and McCarthy openly wondered whether he could win the gavel. Scalise withdrew his name the next day.

Then, the conference tried Jordan. But fury from Scalise allies over Jordan supporters tanking Scalise, and an intense pressure campaign that sparked death threats aimed at holdouts, led to him losing three ballots on the House floor. The conference then voted to rescind the nomination.

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) was up next — but criticisms over his votes against overturning the 2020 election and in favor of codifying same-sex marriage, as well as vocal opposition from former President Trump, led to him bowing out just four hours later.

In the end, Johnson — who has a conservative voting record, no major enemies, and is generally known as a nice guy — became the consensus pick for Republicans as they exhausted their options, and themselves.

Not even a last-minute push by McCarthy allies to try and reinstall him as Speaker amid the chaos could overcome the conference’s momentum in coalescing around Johnson.

The 51-year-old Johnson has been the House GOP’s vice chairman, a junior leadership position, since 2021. He is also a former chairman 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.

The mild-mannered Louisiana Republican has largely stayed under the radar throughout his tenure in Congress, focusing on his work with the House Judiciary Committee and House Armed Services Committee.

In 2020, Johnson emerged as a key player in Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the presidential election. Johnson, then the vice chairman 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.

“Today I made arrangements to file an amicus brief in the Texas case now pending at the Supreme Court on behalf of House Republicans who are all deeply concerned about the integrity of our election system,” Johnson wrote on X on Dec. 8, 2020.

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” Wednesday. “Those are extreme views, and House Democrats will push back aggressively against that.”

Throughout the three-plus week Speaker saga, Republicans have largely aimed their fire at the eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy — a move that set the recent chain of events in motion. Lawmakers have called for them to be punished and have slammed them in public.

That group — led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) — joined with Democrats to boot the Californian from his post on Oct. 3, marking the first time the House ever successfully deposed a sitting Speaker. But despite bad blood and heightened rhetoric, members of the “crazy eight,” as McCarthy dubbed them, say they have no regrets.

“It was worth it,” Gaetz said Tuesday night. “I promised the American people that we would improve and upgrade the position of Speaker of the House. And when we elect Mike Johnson, I will have delivered on that commitment.”

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