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Mike Johnson, a loyal ally of Donald Trump, has been elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, ending weeks of congressional paralysis and signalling a sharp tack to the right for Republicans in the lower chamber. In total, all 220 House Republicans in the chamber voted for Johnson on Wednesday afternoon.
No Democrats backed his bid. It was a show of unity for a Republican party that had for more than three weeks struggled to unite behind a candidate after Kevin McCarthy was ousted at the hands of a rebellion led by Florida congressman Matt Gaetz.
The long-running saga exposed sharp ideological divisions in the Republican party and raised fresh questions about Trump’s influence in Washington. The impasse had prevented lawmakers from taking up crucial legislation, including a White House proposal for billions of dollars in additional aid to Israel and Ukraine.
Minutes after being sworn in, Johnson promised the House would vote on a resolution voicing lawmakers’ support for Israel. “We are in a time of extraordinary crisis right now and the world needs us to be strong,” he said.
“The country demands strong leadership of this body, and we must not waver.” Among Johnson’s first tasks as Speaker will be confronting a looming government shutdown. Lawmakers have until mid-November to agree a deal to continue funding the federal government.
He was the fourth Republican Speaker nominee since McCarthy was removed. House majority leader Steve Scalise, House judiciary committee chair Jim Jordan and House majority whip Tom Emmer all failed to rally enough support from their own party to seize the Speaker’s gavel. Johnson, a conservative evangelical representative from Louisiana, had been bullish on his chances late on Tuesday, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill after he was selected as the party’s latest nominee by a secret ballot in a closed-door meeting.
“Democracy is messy sometimes, but it is our system. This conference that you see, this House Republican majority, is united,” Johnson said. He vowed to “serve the people of this country” and “restore their faith in this Congress, this institution of government”. Johnson, 51, has until now been a lower-profile member of Congress than Scalise, Jordan or Emmer.
An evangelical Christian, Johnson is a hardline social conservative, opposing access to abortion in nearly all cases, as well as same-sex marriage. In Louisiana, he has been a proponent of marriage “covenant” laws, which make it more difficult for couples to divorce. Earlier this year, Johnson voted against more US aid to Ukraine.
He was also among the most vocal proponents of Trump’s claims that the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him. A lawyer by training, Johnson led a group of more than 100 fellow Republicans in filing an amicus brief to the US Supreme Court in support of a Texas lawsuit that tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election in four swing states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In the hours after the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol, Johnson voted against certifying Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.
Johnson declined to answer a reporter’s question about his stance on the 2020 election late on Tuesday, simply saying, “next question”, while Virginia Foxx, a Republican congresswoman from North Carolina, told the reporter to “shut up”. Asked about Johnson at a press conference at the White House on Wednesday afternoon, US president Joe Biden said he was not worried about any possible challenges to the results of the forthcoming 2024 presidential election, saying: “I understand the Constitution.” Johnson became the party’s nominee on Tuesday night, just hours after Trump torpedoed Emmer’s candidacy in a blistering post on social media, calling the Minnesota congressman a “globalist Rino”, or Republican in name only.
Trump claimed credit for helping get Johnson elected. Speaking to reporters at a New York courthouse where he is facing a civil fraud trial, the former president said Johnson would be a “great Speaker of the House”. “I have known him for a long time. He is a tremendous leader,” Trump added. “He is going to make us all proud.”
Source: Financial Times