Johnson’s election ends weeks of House turmoil

After three weeks, Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson (top right) was elected as Speaker of the U.S. House on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Johnson has been a representative since 2017 and is 51 years old. // Photo courtesy of Francis Chung POLITICO

Editor’s Note: After three weeks and four speaker nominations, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana has been elected as Speaker of the House. His election ends weeks of congressional chaos and allows for the House to resume legislative duties. 

In a historic vote, California Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted from his role as speaker of the House in a 216-210 vote, with eight Republicans siding with Democrats to remove him. Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz brought forth the motion after accusing him of  collaborating with Democratic leadership on a funding extension to avoid a government shutdown. 

This is the first time that a speaker has been removed from the post in the middle of a congressional term, meaning that the House of Representatives has been left in a gray area. Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina was listed first on McCarthy’s list and assumed the role of speaker pro tempore immediately after the removal vote. A rule established by the 118th Congress states that, in the event of a speaker vacancy, the first person named on a list that McCarthy provided will assume Speaker pro tempore until a new speaker can be elected. 

The role of the Speaker Pro Tempore is to re-elect a new speaker, which requires a united Republican census to attain a majority. Since McCarthy was voted out, there have been two Republican nominees, while the Democrats continue to nominate and vote for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Over the last three weeks, Reps. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio have stepped forward as candidates but were unable to attain the 217 votes that would achieve the necessary majority to receive the speakership. 

On Monday, Oct. 23, 2023, there were eight new GOP candidates for the speaker nomination. With no evident front runner, Republicans held a candidate forum Monday evening to allow the new candidates to pitch
themselves for the candidacy. 

The eight candidates were Rep. Jack Bergman of Michigan, Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, Rep. Gary Palmer of Alabama, Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia and Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas.

Of the eight candidates, only two, Reps. Emmer and Scott, voted to certify the results of the 2020 election in which President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump. Trump had also declined to back any candidate at that point, however, former speaker McCarthy had thrown his support behind Rep. Emmer. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, Republicans met to vote on a nominee to continue voting until a winner is procured. With eight candidates and a united Republican party, the voting process assisted in narrowing the field. With every vote, the candidate with the least amount of votes was eliminated from the race until a candidate successfully won a majority. Around noon on Tuesday, it was announced that Rep. Emmer had won the nomination for speaker, and hardly four hours later, he dropped out of the speaker bid. 

Emmer was roughly 20 votes behind, meaning that he would have faced an uphill battle to win the speakership. He spent most of the afternoon fighting members of his party for a vote with little success due to the efforts of his opponents. Scathing comments from former President Trump, calling a vote for Emmer a “tragic mistake” were also likely demotivators for the representative.

As of Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023, the Republican Conference is once again set to hold another candidate meeting, and the absence of a speaker of the House remains. There will be another vote Wednesday morning with new candidates, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann of Tennessee, Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana and Rep. Roger Williams of Texas. 

After the Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, nomination and full vote, Rep. Johnson won the speakership after more than 20 days of congressional inaction. The consequences of a speakerless House have been seen globally. 

Without a speaker, Congress is incapable of performing essential duties regarding both domestic and foreign affairs. As the election year begins, the frustration of this incompetence is heard among the American people as well as within Congress.

Rep. Mark Alford, a freshman from Missouri, is one of the many members frustrated with the current congressional circumstances.

“I gave up my career to come here to do something for America, to rebuild our military, to get spending under control, to secure our border — and here we are in this quicksand,” Alford said.

As Congress enters its 20th day without a speaker, several looming issues have the potential for massive escalation if not addressed. Another spending bill must be passed by Nov. 23, 2023, to avert a holiday-time government shutdown. Military aid packages for Israel, Gaza and Ukraine also need to be passed by the House to avert further crises. There is also a pending aid package for the Southern border that is awaiting a vote. Essential legislation is awaiting action from a paralyzed Congress, and without a path forward, there could be global consequences. 

“This is embarrassing for the Republican Party. It’s embarrassing for the nation, and we need to look at one another and solve the problem,” McCarthy said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet The Press.”