The House elected Johnson by a party-line vote of 220 to 209. No Republicans opposed him.
With a speaker, the House can once again function as a legislative body and consider bills to fund the government and support foreign allies. Lawmakers have been unable to do so much as name a post office as Republicans bickered among themselves.
First elected in 2016, Johnson’s relatively short tenure in the House and low national profile likely helped him get the gavel after passive-aggressive backstabbing sank three previous Republican nominees, who either chaired committees or served in party leadership.
“He hasn’t acquired a single enemy in his time here,” Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a moderate Republican from Pennsylvania, told HuffPost before the vote. “He’s very humble. He’s not going to throw bombs or attack people personally.”
Johnson is a staunch social conservative who has opposed abortion and gay rights. He led his colleagues in asking the Supreme Court to throw out the 2020 presidential election on behalf of then-president Donald Trump, who falsely claimed the contest was tainted by fraud. And like most of his colleagues, Johnson voted to object to certifying the result even after a mob of Trump supporters had ransacked the Capitol.
The previous Republican speaker candidate, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), had voted to certify the election — which Rep. Majorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) listed as a reason she opposed his candidacy. Emmer withdrew from the contest Tuesday just four hours after becoming Republicans’ speaker nominee.
Some Republicans opposed the candidate before Emmer, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), because they believed he had not done enough to support his own predecessor speaker-designee, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). Others refused to back either Scalise or Jordan because they were mad about the ouster of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) after he’d occupied the speaker’s office for only nine months.
“This has been about one thing. This is about who can appease Donald Trump,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said in a House floor speech before the vote.
Aguilar noted Johnson’s leading role in the Supreme Court brief, prompting an outburst from several Republicans.
“Damn right,” yelled Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.).
Speaker Johnson will immediately confront major domestic and international political problems, including a Nov. 17 deadline to fund U.S. government operations and avoid a shutdown, as well as requests for military aid for Israel and Ukraine. Republicans booted McCarthy after he avoided a shutdown earlier this month by allowing a vote on a funding bill that passed with bipartisan support. Hard-liners complained McCarthy had violated a commitment not to pass bills with Democrats.
Fitzpatrick said he was unaware of Johnson making any commitments in the meetings Republicans held earlier this week.
“The second they commit to one group, they lose the other, and we’d be in a perpetual shutdown in terms of not having speakers,” he said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who triggered the no-confidence vote that ousted McCarthy, declared on a right-wing podcast Wednesday that Johnson’s election represented the triumph of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement.
“If you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention,” Gaetz said.
After the vote, Johnson, walking up to the chamber door with his fellow Republicans to formally take the gavel, ignored a reporter’s question on whether the 2020 election was stolen.