On the evening of Oct. 25, the three-week-long saga following the former Speaker McCarthy’s ousting came to an end. The 118th Congress elected Republican Mike Johnson from Louisiana’s fourth congressional district.
Almost a week earlier, after a battle with moderate party members and three failing votes, Ohio Representative Jim Jordan was voted out of the nomination. Following his fall from candidacy, a number of Republicans announced their interest in the position.
Tom Emmer, representative of Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District and current majority whip, was briefly considered as a possible replacement. Ultimately, however, he failed to rally the moderate and hard right GOP members together.
For nearly a week, Congress was thrown into a state of heightened chaos while the GOP worked to find a candidate that all could agree upon. To win the Speakership, a candidate would need at least 217 votes. Given the narrow majority held by the GOP, a candidate can only afford to lose 5 members of their own party. Following Johnson’s election, Gallup polls found that just 13% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.
Finding a candidate who could satisfy a Republican Party that has faced splintering factions of ideologies proved to be difficult. This was especially tough given the looming threat of shutdown, which is set to occur on Nov. 17 unless Congress takes action to pass a federal spending plan.
After a final count of 220-209 in the vote on Oct. 25, the search finally ended and the House chose its speaker. Every Republican voted in favor of Rep. Johnson, and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries received the other 209 votes. However, the Speaker’s election signals the dawn of a new era in Congress.
Rep. Johnson is currently serving his fourth term in the House, and is the most junior Speaker to be elected since 1883. During his time in office, Rep. Johnson has gained a reputation for being a hard right fundamentalist Christian.
Prior to his political career, Rep. Johnson practiced law for a number of organizations including the Freedom Guard, a non-profit which he founded to represent Christian clients in lawsuits. In 2020, Johnson was one of 139 House Republicans who contested the results of the Presidential election.
While working for the Alliance Defense Fund in 2003, he wrote an amicus brief in the case of Lawrence v Texas, opposing the ruling that certified the constitutionality of non-procreative consensual sex. During that same year he supported sodomy laws that would have criminalized homosexual activity.
Additionally, he has called for a national abortion ban and voted in favor of legislation to overturn the 2015 Obergefell v Hodges decision, which affirmed the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry.
The new speaker is currently serving on the prestigious House Judiciary committee as well as the Armed Services committee. He is also assigned to six other subcommittees including the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government and the Subcommittee on Administrative State, Regulatory Reform and Antitrust. Before his ascension to the Speaker’s podium, he was the chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Limited Government.
Rep. Johnson received an endorsement from the former President Trump, who previously campaigned for reelection while visiting Louisiana.
Thus far, the new Speaker has been successful in passing one of the twelve spending bills. He has also directed efforts to pass funding that would support Israel in the midst of the war in Gaza.
Despite Rep. Johnson’s successes or failures, it is abundantly clear that the hard right flank of the Republican Party has gained significant traction. Johnson’s promotion to the Speakership is not only the signal of a new era in the GOP, but in American politics.