Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana received the unanimous support of Republican lawmakers to become speaker of the House Wednesday after three weeks of confusion and disarray following the ouster of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
The Republican conference rallied behind Johnson in a 220-209 vote on the House floor, with Democrats united in favor of Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York and Republicans united in favor of Johnson.
Johnson addressed his congressional colleagues in a floor speech after he received the speaker’s gavel — and a hug — from Jeffries, the top Democratic leader, saying he would work to find “common ground” with Democrats.
“I thank you all for the trust that you have instilled in me to lead us in this historic and unprecedented moment that we are in. The challenge before us is great but the time for action is now and I will not let you down,” Johnson said. “Our mission here is to serve you well, to restore the people’s faith in this House, and in this great and essential institution.”
Johnson spoke of the importance of aiding Israel, addressing the immigrant crisis at the southern border and creating a bipartisan debt and deficit commission “immediately.”
Utah’s House congressional delegation composed of Reps. Blake Moore, John Curtis and Burgess Owens all voted in favor of Johnson, after all three also backed the previous three GOP nominees.
“After a thorough evaluation of various candidates and personalities, our collective deliberation has produced a remarkable outcome: Mike Johnson,” Owens, who represents Utah’s 4th Congressional District, said in a statement shortly after the vote was concluded. “Mike Johnson is not just a friend and teammate but a proven conservative leader with the right qualities to lead the People’s House.”
Utah’s 3rd District congressman, John Curtis, referred to a comment given by Johnson after securing the nomination Tuesday night, “Democracy is messy sometimes, but it is our system.”
“I am pleased to have voted for Mike as Speaker of the House,” Curtis said in a statement. “I know that as a God-fearing, humble servant, he will help us fund our government and support our allies facing unprecedented challenges abroad.”
Moore, of Utah’s 1st Congressional District, congratulated Johnson for “uniting our party after a difficult few weeks.”
“Mike is a man of principle and conviction, and I look forward to getting back to work under his leadership,” Moore said.
Johnson was the fourth nominee put forward by the Republican conference, following former House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, also of Louisiana, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota.
Johnson now has a difficult task ahead, to pass several spending bills before Nov. 17 in order to stave off a government shutdown, and also to decide what to do with an aid package for Ukraine and Israel proposed by President Joe Biden.
Several Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate, including Utah Sen. Mike Lee, have said aid for Ukraine and aid for Israel should be dealt with separately.
In a letter to his colleagues outlining how he would proceed as speaker, Johnson presented a timeline for passing the remaining spending bills that need to clear the House, and said he would work to clear next year’s spending bills out of the House by July 2024. The letter was shared by Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News.
“We all understand that our next Speaker must be prepared to negotiate from a position of strength with the Democrat-controlled Senate and White House,” Johnson wrote. “The only way to secure that position is for the House to have passed all twelve of our appropriations measures. I am confident we can work together to accomplish that objective quickly, in a manner that delivers on our principled commitments to rein in wasteful spending, and put our country back on a path to fiscal responsibility.”
Lee posted on social media in support of Johnson late Tuesday, saying, “Love this guy. (Johnson) would be a terrific speaker.”
On CNN Wednesday, Jeffries was quick to try to paint Johnson as “extreme” and “right wing,” saying Johnson wanted to “criminalize abortion care,” over his support of a national abortion ban. He also brought up Johnson’s role in rejecting the 2020 election results, and accused Johnson of wanting to end entitlement spending.
However, he said, “we’ve said from the very beginning of this Congress, and demonstrated, that we are ready, willing and able to find common ground with our Republican colleagues” to pass legislation.
All House Democrats united with eight Republicans to oust McCarthy after he helped pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open past the Sept. 30 deadline. Since then, the House has been at a standstill.
Who is House Speaker Mike Johnson?
Johnson, 51, is a relative unknown on the national scene. First elected in 2016, he’s in his fourth term representing the 4th District of Louisiana, which includes Shreveport.
Johnson supported all of the candidates leading up to the vote that handed him the gavel, and previously served as vice chair of the Republican conference.
In 2020, Johnson was on the House defense team during the first impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump. He also supported Trump’s legal challenges to the 2020 election, including spearheading an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit in Texas that sought to overturn election results in four states, according to The Wall Street Journal.
On Wednesday, Trump told reporters Johnson was “respected by all and that’s what we need,” according to Fox News. He also called Johnson, “popular, smart, sharp.”
In the letter Johnson wrote to colleagues announcing his decision to run for speaker, he outlined his previous work experience, saying he spent “more than 20 years fighting on the front lines of the culture as a constitutional law attorney,” and also “served as legal counsel, policy analyst, and national media spokesman for some of our nation’s most prominent conservative organizations, a college professor, a conservative talk radio host, and a small business owner.”