US House elects conservative Republican Johnson as Speaker


U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Louisina, is congratulated by Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minnesota, after Johnson's election as speaker, at the Capitol in Washington, Oct. 25, 2023.[VOA]

Republican Mike Johnson was elected speaker of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, ending lawmakers’ 22-day struggle to pick one of the top leadership positions in the U.S. government.

Johnson, 51, a three-term congressman and lower-level member of Republican leadership, won 220-209. He is now second in the presidential line of succession.

All 209 present House Democrats voted for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

Johnson, from the Southern state of Louisiana, rallied Republicans around former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In his first speech as speaker, Johnson emphasized his Christian faith, saying, “I believe that each one of us has a huge responsibility today, to use the gifts that God has given us to serve the extraordinary people of this great country, and they deserve it. And to ensure that our republic remains standing as the great beacon of light and hope and freedom in a world that desperately needs it.”

In her floor speech nominating Johnson, Representative Elise Stefanik said Johnson is “a man of deep faith. Mike epitomizes what it means to be a servant leader. A deeply respected constitutional lawyer, Mike has dedicated his life to preserving America's great principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

President Joe Biden congratulated Johnson in a statement Wednesday afternoon.

“As I said when this process began, whoever the speaker is, I will seek to work with them in good faith on behalf of the American people,” Biden said.

“That’s a principle I have always held to, and that I’ve acted on — delivering major bipartisan legislation on infrastructure, outcompeting China, gun reform and veterans care.”

Johnson secured the Republican conference’s nomination late Tuesday after Representative Tom Emmer withdrew his candidacy earlier in the day. Trump posted on his Truth Social media platform early Tuesday afternoon that he did not know Emmer well and referred to him as a RINO — a term meaning Republican in Name Only.

Johnson received Trump’s endorsement Wednesday morning.

"Mike Johnson's doing very well. He was a tremendous congressman, respected by everybody. I hear it looks like it's really good. I haven't had one negative comment about him. Everybody likes him, and he's respected by all,” Trump told reporters.

The role of speaker has been vacant since October 3, when eight Republicans joined with all 212 House Democrats to make Kevin McCarthy the first speaker to be removed from the position.

A right-wing faction of the Republican Party was displeased with McCarthy for passing a short-term measure funding the government to keep it open past a September 30 deadline with Democratic legislators’ help.

“There's been a lot of internal turmoil within the Republican conference for really the last decade or so,” Casey Burgat, director of legislative affairs and a professor at George Washington University, told VOA.

"It's been slowly becoming more exposed in more public ways. And this really hit the head when ... it was necessary to fund the government, and Speaker McCarthy couldn't find enough votes within his own conference.”

Since McCarthy's ouster, House Republicans had been unable to coalesce around a replacement. They first nominated Representative Steve Scalise of the Southern state of Louisiana, but he was unable to secure the needed votes.

The Republican caucus next gave its nod to Representative Jim Jordan of the Midwestern state of Ohio. Jordan is a conservative firebrand and staunch Trump supporter.

Jordan also failed to gain a 217-vote majority in the House, falling well short on a first vote and then losing ground on two subsequent ballots.

The weeks of Republican infighting left the House unable to respond to crucial budget matters. A November 17 deadline looms for budget issues to be resolved or a partial government shutdown will go into effect.

U.S. lawmakers must also consider the White House’s supplemental request for $61 billion in aid to Ukraine and $14 billion in aid for Israel.