Republican Mike Johnson elected US House speaker

Johnson wins House vote 220 to 209 with broad Republican support and will fill key role that was vacant for three weeks.

U.S. Representative Mike Johnson
Johnson was first elected to the House in 2016 [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

The US House of Representatives has elected Republican Mike Johnson as its speaker after a turbulent three weeks that left the rudderless chamber unable to carry out its basic duties.

The 220 to 209 vote on Wednesday elevated third-term congressman Johnson, 51, to a speaker’s chair that has been vacant since Kevin McCarthy was removed on October 3 by a small group of hardline Republicans in response to a deal with Democrats that averted a partial government shutdown.

In the weeks that followed, Republicans who narrowly control the House considered and rejected three possible replacements before settling on Johnson, a Louisiana lawyer backed by former President Donald Trump who spent years advancing conservative policies, such as school prayer.

“I think he’s gonna be a fantastic speaker,” Trump said Wednesday at the New York court where the former president, who is now the Republican frontrunner for president in 2024, is on trial over a lawsuit alleging business fraud.

Trump said he hadn’t heard “one negative comment about him. Everybody likes him.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks in New York City
Trump says he thinks Johnson will be a ‘fantastic’ speaker [File: Ted Shaffrey/AP Photo]

Social conservative

First elected in 2016, Johnson will be the least experienced House speaker in decades. A conservative with little leadership experience, he is best known as the author of an unsuccessful appeal by 126 House Republicans after the 2020 presidential election to get the Supreme Court to overturn election results in states that Trump had lost.

Johnson declined to answer a question about that effort shortly after his nomination on Tuesday night.

In a letter to colleagues, Johnson has pledged to advance overdue spending legislation and ensure that the US government does not shut down when current funding expires on November 17.

He will also have to respond to Democratic President Joe Biden’s $106bn spending request for aid to Israel, Ukraine and US border security. While the Republicans broadly support funding for Israel and the US border, they are divided over further support for Ukraine.

While House leaders typically focus on fundraising and vote counting, Johnson is better known as an advocate for conservative social positions.

He has supported legislation that bars gender-related surgery and hormone treatment for transgender teens, prohibits mask mandates on aeroplanes, and tightens immigration and abortion restrictions.

U.S. Representative Mike Johnson
Johnson was elected after three other candidates were unable to secure enough votes [Nathan Howard/Reuters]

Republicans narrowly control the House by a 221-212 margin, leaving them with little room for error on controversial votes. Divisions within the party were on display during the past few weeks, as they nominated three candidates for speaker – Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan and Tom Emmer – but were unable to secure the 217 votes needed to win the speaker’s gavel.

As speaker, Johnson will have to confront the same challenges that felled McCarthy and stymied his would-be successors. They include the demands of the caucus’ hardline members and the reality that with a Democratic majority in the Senate and Biden occupying the Oval Office, no laws can currently be passed in Washington without bipartisan support.

Source: News Agencies