U.S. Representative Mike Johnson (R-LA) is surrounded by fellow members as he speaks to reporters after securing the nomination for House Speaker from the Republican conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 24, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana is facing a floor vote in the House of Representatives Wednesday on his nomination for speaker. Johnson is the fourth candidate Republicans have nominated in just two weeks, as they scramble to unite a fractured caucus around one leader.
Johnson, the vice chairman of the House Republican conference, is a social conservative who served on former President Donald Trump’s legal defense team during his first impeachment.
Yet the outcome of Wednesday’s floor vote was still uncertain as the House met at noon and began voting.
Johnson won the nomination Tuesday with the support of 128 Republicans in a vote at a closed door conference meeting, far short of the 215 GOP votes he needs to win the speakership on the House floor.
Johnson later said that in a second internal vote, after he was nominated, every member in the room had backed Johnson’s bid, including those who initially voted for other candidates.
Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York pitched Johnson as a unity candidate for Republicans in her nomination speech Wednesday, describing him as “a friend to all and an enemy to none.”
Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, a Democrat, said the GOP was simply appeasing Trump, who has endorsed Johnson for speaker.
The Louisiana Republican’s nomination Tuesday came just hours after Majority Whip Tom Emmer was forced to abandon his bid for speaker.
Emmer’s candidacy suffered a fatal blow when Trump came out publicly against him, deriding the majority whip as a fake Republican.
Trump basically endorsed Johnson for speaker in a post on Truth Social Wednesday, encouraging House Republicans to vote for the Louisianan.
Emmer was a relative moderate compared to many Republicans in the conference, a fact that drew the ire of key members of his party who identify as hardline conservatives.
For example, the Minnesota Republican voted in 2020 to certify President Joe Biden’s election victory. This September, he voted for spending legislation that averted a government shutdown.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., candidate for speaker of the House, is seen outside a House Republican Conference speaker election meeting in Longworth Building on Tuesday, October 24, 2023.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Johnson’s positions, on the other hand, are more in line with the party’s base. He previously did legal work for the Alliance Defense Freedom, an ultraconservative advocacy group that litigates to restrict abortion access and prohibit same-sex marriage.
In 2020, Johnson publicly doubted Biden’s election victories in Pennsylvania and Arizona, and he filed a legal brief in support of a lawsuit that sought to block the certification of Biden’s victories in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
Earlier this fall, Johnson voted against the short-term spending legislation that is keeping the government open until November.
The House leadership crisis has dragged on for nearly three weeks after a faction of hard-right Republicans ousted then Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this month.
The House is paralyzed without a speaker, unable to pass spending legislation as the clock ticks toward a Nov. 17 deadline to avoid a government shutdown. Congress also cannot pass emergency security assistance for Israel and Ukraine until the House has a new leader.
Johnson has voted against aid for Ukraine in the past. He said earlier this month the U.S. needs to take urgent action to support Israel, and the House should “take all necessary action to end Hamas forever.”
This is a developing story, please check back for updates.