Rep. Mike Johnson, a relatively little-known Louisiana Republican and low-ranking member of the GOP leadership team, became the party’s latest nominee for House speaker Tuesday night after three other hopefuls fizzled out.
Shortly after Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., defeated Johnson and six other contenders to win the nomination, he was nominated. However, he promptly withdrew his candidature when he was unable to garner the nearly unanimous GOP backing required on the House floor.
Johnson, the vice chair of the GOP Conference, might experience the same destiny as Emmer. It’s still uncertain if he can secure the 217 Republican votes required to win the coveted gavel, or a simple majority of the entire House.
There might be a floor vote as early as Wednesday afternoon.
Johnson, 51, was elected to Congress in 2016. He is well-liked among his fellow Republicans, and he has avoided creating a lot of political enemies on Capitol Hill.
Johnson has a broad base of support, following a path similar to those of two of his political mentors: Majority Leader Steve Scalise, a fellow Louisianan, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, both of whom also won nominations for speaker but dropped out. All three began as state legislators before they won seats in Congress and were head of the Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of conservatives in Congress, before they moved up to leadership posts.
Johnson is seeking to achieve something the last three nominees failed to do: win at least 217 of the 221 Republican votes needed to become speaker. It will be Johnson’s decision whether and when to hold such a vote. Jordan held multiple votes and failed, while Scalise and Emmer bowed out before they held any floor votes, recognising they didn’t have a path to victory.
Johnson has mostly gone unnoticed on a national level, eschewing the divisive language and dramatic events that many politicians employ to attract attention. However, he can have an impact behind the scenes.
The political team of former Representative Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., circulated a New York Times article on Tuesday, when Johnson was a candidate for speaker, referring to him as “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections” on January 6, 2021, which were intended to keep then-President Donald Trump in office even though he lost.
According to a story published in The Times last year, a number of Republicans who voted to disregard the votes cast for Biden referenced a defence developed by Johnson. This defence focused on the argument that the state’s voting modifications during the pandemic were unconstitutional rather than on the fabrications of widespread fraud.
Trump, who stabbed Emmer on Tuesday after securing the nomination, is another unpredictable factor in the speaker’s contest. Emmer’s vote to certify the 2020 election infuriated allies of President Trump.
Johnson gained some speed before leaving the starting gate. One opponent, Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Oklahoma, withdrew before the polls even opened, endorsing Johnson instead.
And Johnson defeated the other four GOP contenders to win on Tuesday night. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, a Republican from Tennessee, finished last and was removed in the first round.
According to a GOP source, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., withdrew and endorsed Johnson, while Small Business Committee Chairman Roger Williams, R-Texas, was eliminated after the second round due to his lowest vote total.
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., one of the four Black Republicans in the House and a member of the Freedom Caucus, was beaten by Johnson in the third and final round. According to a GOP source, the overwhelming vote was 128 to 29, with 44 Republicans voting for someone else.
Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colorado, reports that McCarthy received 43 of those votes and Jordan received one. Johnson might have a lot of trouble on a House floor vote as a result of those 44 votes.
Rep. Randy Weber of Texas left the room as the votes were being counted, expressing doubt that any of the contenders could reach 217 points due to the amount of support for non-candidates.
When dozens of people “vote for ‘other’ — in police work they call that a clue,” he said.