WASHINGTON — Both relieved and exultant, Republicans unanimously elected Rep. Mike Johnson as House speaker on Wednesday, elevating a deeply conservative but lesser-known leader to the seat of U.S. power and ending for now the political chaos in their majority.
Johnson, 51, of Louisiana, swept through on the first ballot with support from all Republicans anxious to put the past weeks of tumult behind and get on with the business of governing. He was quickly sworn into office.
“The people’s House is back in business,” Johnson declared after taking the gavel.
Valadao, Costa Say They’re Eager to Return to Work
Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford) said he was glad the House has a Speaker again and declared himself ready to get back to work.
“We have a crisis at our southern border, one of our closest allies in the Middle East at war, and a deadline to fund the government in less than 30 days,” Valadao said in a statement to GV Wire.
“Today, the House elected a Speaker so we can get back to work on these issues, along with other must-pass legislation including the National Defense Authorization Act, the FAA Reauthorization, and the Farm Bill. It’s time to get back to work for the American people.”
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Jim Costa (D-Fresno) said he was hopeful that Congress could work together to help Americans.
“After 22 days without a Speaker of the House, today’s election of Rep. Johnson means we can get back to work,” Costa said in a statement. “We have a lot of work to do, including keeping the government funded by passing a budget.
“The American people deserve a Congress that can govern and deliver for them in times of crisis. My hope is that we now work in a bipartisan fashion to get things done on behalf of the American people.”
Who Is Mike Johnson?
Johnson’s Sudden Emergence
A lower-ranked member of the House GOP leadership team, Johnson emerged as the fourth Republican nominee in what had become an almost absurd cycle of political infighting since Kevin McCarthy’s ouster as GOP factions jockeyed for power. While not the party’s top choice for the gavel, the deeply religious and even-keeled Johnson has few foes and an important GOP backer: Donald Trump.
“I think he’s gonna be a fantastic speaker,” Trump said Wednesday at the New York courthouse where the former president, who is now the Republican front-runner for president in 2024, is on trial over a lawsuit alleging business fraud.
Three weeks on without a House speaker, the Republicans have been wasting their majority status — a maddening embarrassment to some, democracy in action to others, but not at all how the House is expected to function.
Far-right members had refused to accept a more traditional speaker, and moderate conservatives didn’t want a hard-liner. While Johnson had no opponents during a private party roll call late Tuesday, some two dozen Republicans did not vote, more than enough to sink his nomination.
Republicans Rally Around Johnson
But when GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik rose to introduce Johnson’s name Wednesday as their nominee, Republicans jumped to their feet for a standing ovation.
“House Republicans and Speaker Mike Johnson will never give up,” she said.
Democrats again nominated their leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, criticizing Johnson as an architect of Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
With Republicans controlling the House only 221-212 over Democrats, Johnson could afford just a few detractors to win the gavel. He won 220-209, with a few absences.
Jeffries: Dems Will Find Common Ground Whenever Possible
Jeffries said House Democrats will find “common ground” work with Republicans whenever possible for the “good of the country.”
Lawmakers were quickly reconvening in what has been a shuttered chamber to consider a House resolution in support of Israel in the war against Hamas.
Overnight the endorsements for Johnson started pouring in, including from failed speaker hopefuls. Rep. Jim Jordan, the hard-charging Judiciary Committee chairman, gave his support, as did Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the fellow Louisiana congressman, who stood behind Johnson after he won the nomination.
“Mike! Mike! Mike!” lawmakers chanted at a press conference after the late-night internal vote, surrounding Johnson and posing for selfies in a show of support.
(GV Wire contributed to this report.)