Mike Johnson chosen as Republicans’ fourth House speaker nominee newsbhunt


House Republicans elected two speaker-designates in the span of 10 hours Tuesday, but they failed again to fully unite the conference around a new leader, leaving the House without a speaker for the 21st day in a row.

Just four hours after House Republicans selected Majority Whip Tom Emmer (Minn.) as their third speaker-designate in three weeks, he removed himself from consideration after former president Donald Trump lobbed a forceful rebuke, effectively sinking Emmer’s candidacy.

That forced Republicans into a rushed election Tuesday evening as the fractious conference openly fretted about the political and electoral blowback for keeping the House inoperable. After spending two hours choosing among five candidates — including Reps. Byron Donalds (Fla.), Charles J. “Chuck” Fleischmann (Tenn.), Mark Green (Tenn.) and Roger Williams (R-Tex.) — Republicans ultimately chose Rep. Mike Johnson (La.) as their fourth speaker-designate.

And though he has not been considered a candidate since his ouster exactly three weeks ago, former speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) began to gain traction Tuesday evening as dozens of his allies voted for him instead of the declared candidates.

Johnson, the conference’s vice chair, will now see if he can overcome the same hurdle that sealed the fate of Emmer, Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.), and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio): all speaker designates who dropped out after realizing they could not earn the necessary 217 Republican votes on the House floor to officially wield the speaker’s gavel.

“We’re going to restore your trust in what we do here. You’re going to see a new form of government,” Johnson said. “This group here is ready to govern, and we are going to govern well. We’re going to do what’s right by the people, and I believe the people are going to reward that next year.”

The lack of a speaker has effectively frozen the House from doing any legislative business besides holding hearings on bills that cannot be introduced on the House floor. Republicans, who have the majority, have been unable to reopen the House to begin consideration of several priorities including: funding the government for the full year before a Nov. 17 deadline; sending supplemental assistance to Israel and other foreign countries; and addressing myriad must-pass bills, including the Farm Bill and the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization.

The only actions the House floor has seen in three weeks have been the three failed attempts last week by Jordan to win enough Republican votes to be elected the speaker before he dropped out Friday. Before Jordan’s failed candidacy, Scalise removed himself from the running after far-right members made clear he would never earn their support, fomenting bad blood between both camps that prevented Jordan from winning over some Scalise backers.

Johnson hinted at some of the dysfunction of the past several weeks Tuesday night: “We’re going to restore [voters’] faith in this Congress, this institution of government.”

Johnson, 51, an attorney and former radio host, is a close ally of Trump, having served in the former president’s legal defense team during his two impeachment trials in the Senate. The vice chair also contested the results of the 2020 election — urging Trump that year to “stay strong and keep fighting” as he tried to overturn the results of the presidential race. Johnson also objected to certifying Joe Biden’s electoral win, arguing that states’ voting accommodations during the pandemic were unconstitutional.

On Oct .24, House Republicans booed a reporter who asked the GOP speaker designate Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. (Video: C-SPAN)

As the party that earned the House majority following last year’s midterm elections, Republicans must determine within their razor-thin ranks who to permanently install as speaker. Democrats remain staunchly behind Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), but many have publicly declared that they would help Republicans temporarily empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) to oversee the House chamber and finish critical legislative business.

Without a clear path forward, more Republicans are privately signaling their support for a resolution led by Rep. David Joyce (Ohio), which would empower McHenry with abilities to reopen the floor and pass legislation until Jan. 3, 2024. The resolution was not moved on last week because more Democrats than Republicans would have voted in support of it, but members in both parties are now readying for it to be introduced as soon as this week as significantly more Republicans are open to backing it, according to two people familiar with the plans. It is expected to come onto the floor under privilege, meaning the House would have 48 hours to vote on it. But Republicans who are against it could use several procedural tools to prevent final passage.

The mood shifted rapidly in the less than 24 hours since Republicans arrived on Capitol Hill on Monday, when many projected cautious optimism that they could elect a leader by Friday. Lawmakers said that personal politics were no longer plaguing the nine Republicans who had launched speaker bids over the weekend and that constituent blame toward Republicans for the dysfunction in the House could influence lawmakers to act quickly.

Given his position in leadership, Emmer was the front-runner and was considered by many to be a Republican who could coalesce a majority of the conference’s disparate ideological factions, given his close ties to many as their whip and two-term chairman of the House Republican campaign arm. He remained the top vote-getter during the Republicans’ first five rounds of voting Tuesday that saw Johnson, Kevin Hern (Okla.), Jack Bergman (Mich.), Austin Scott (Ga.), and Pete Sessions (Tex.) eliminated. Rep. Gary Palmer (Ala.) pulled his bid Tuesday morning before votes started, and Rep. Byron Donalds (Fla.) — a popular member from the House Freedom Caucus — removed himself from consideration after four rounds of voting to whittle down the field faster.

After publicly suggesting he would stay out of the speaker’s race Monday, even as people close to him said he directed his supporters to tank Emmer, Trump lashed out at Emmer on social media only two hours into the Minnesota Republican holding the speaker-designate title. He called Emmer a “Republican in name only” or RINO who “never respected the Power of a Trump Endorsement, or the breadth and scope of MAGA — MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

“He is totally out-of-touch with Republican Voters,” Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social. “I believe he has now learned his lesson, because he is saying that he is Pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure?”

Trump’s missive against Emmer immediately injected doubt into his ability to get 217 Republicans behind him on the House floor. And it emboldened the roughly 25 Republicans who had voted against Emmer on Tuesday for varying reasons, including his vote in support of codifying same-sex marriage protections, his certification of the 2020 presidential election results and his less-than-staunch embrace of Trump over the years.

“Well, a lot of people view the [former] president — and I do as well — as the head of the Republican Party. Secondly, he’s got wide-ranging support,” said Rep. Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), who ran for speaker but dropped his bid before Tuesday’s votes. “So you need to respect that, you need to respect him and his support. … They’re the customer, right? The constituents are the customer.”

When Republicans gathered for a second time Tuesday afternoon, Emmer briefly told his colleagues that as their chief vote counter, he knew how to count votes and there were not enough of them in support of his bid, according to three people present who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private conversations. Emmer then declared he was dropping out before storming out of the room.

Shortly thereafter, it was suggested that Republicans move to elect Johnson, the conference’s vice chair. McCarthy then stood up and declared, “This isn’t how we elect a speaker!”

Republicans across the ideological spectrum quickly began to rally behind Johnson, pointing out that his staunchly conservative streak would be more palatable to a majority of the conference.

“Some of the things they questioned Tom on are things they’re not going to question Mike on,” Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) said, referring to the Republicans whose opposition forced Emmer to drop out of the race. Still, he described what happened to Emmer as “outrageous.”

Emmer held court with holdouts for roughly four hours as he worked to assuage their concerns. Members described Emmer as delivering “fiery,” “impassioned” and “compelling” defenses to all questions in a manner that other Republican speaker-designates had not done in front of other colleagues. Emmer has often been described by fellow Republicans as a leader who is blunt and honest, which was appreciated by some who did not trust McCarthy, who they said often made promises he could not keep.

After Trump publicly denounced Emmer, the mood in the room shifted as tensions rose and interactions became “testy.”

“It’s a dumpster fire, frankly,” Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) said as he left the gathering.

A handful of holdouts rebuked Emmer for voting to certify the 2020 election results to make official that Joe Biden won the presidency against Trump. According to multiple people present, Emmer defended his vote by citing what he described as a plain reading of the Constitution, which stated that lawmakers bear witness to the certification of state election results.

Another group lambasted Emmer for voting last year with 46 other Republicans to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enshrine federal same-sex marriage protections into law. Rep. Rick Allen (Ga.) was one of several Republicans who put Emmer up against a “morality test,” as one Republican witness described. Another Republican described Emmer as taking the questions “head on” rather than dodging them, which impressed several lawmakers.

Other holdouts had concerns that Emmer was part of the establishment after having only served in leadership for nine months, which is far less time than anyone else on the leadership rung.

The House majority whip also was confronted about his reputation of often being the last Republican in leadership to publicly defend Trump in various situations. As the successful chairman of the campaign arm for House Republicans, Emmer often advised candidates to avoid Trump’s influence and run their campaigns on local issues.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) stood during the conference to say that he didn’t like Emmer but would vote for him, according to two people in the room, and then Gaetz invited the speaker-designate to clear the air about Trump. Emmer said that he had a good phone call with Trump over the weekend and that he would endorse Trump in the presidential race.

Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.), who passed around a candidate pledge earlier this week in an effort to ensure that the speaker candidates who lost and their allies would back the speaker-designate, admitted that there is more recognition among the conference that the process to elect a speaker was much harder than anticipated.

“Sometimes it feels like one side is not satisfied with the other side’s suggestion,” he said. “We will get there, it just will be more painful than we thought at this point.”

Paul Kane, Mariana Alfaro and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.



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