WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) as the speaker of the House on Wednesday, installing a staunch conservative who has strong backing from former president Donald Trump.
His selection marks the end of the House GOP’s grueling search for a speaker after members of their own party ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the post three weeks ago.
Johnson, who was elected to Congress in 2016, is a fervent supporter of Trump and led his Republican colleagues in calling the Supreme Court to intervene in vote counts in swing states after the 2020 election. He has a strong conservative track record that includes pressing for spending cuts and abortion bans. He and his wife also host a podcast where they extensively discuss current events from a “Christian perspective.”
Although moderate Republicans recently tried to pull back from Trump and the far-right by voting against some of the earlier speaker candidates like Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), Johnson garnered unanimous support of all the Republicans voting on Wednesday. Representatives in all wings of the party quickly threw their support behind him, citing his focus on policy and discipline.
Johnson had the highest percentage of his sponsored bills become law, out of the nine speaker candidates. However, it’s still relatively slim at 6.5%.
Democrats have criticized Johnson for his anti-LGBTQ+ record. When he served in the Louisiana House of Representatives, he introduced multiple bills that would legalize discrimination against LGBTQ+ people under the guise of religious freedom. In Congress, he also introduced a federal version of Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill last December.
According to Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), however, Johnson’s actions to press anti-gay laws shouldn’t be a concern.
“Ever since I’ve gotten here, this man has showed me nothing but kindness and grace,” said the openly gay congressman. “I have no belief that he has one even ounce of hate in his body.”
While Democrats remain unsatisfied with Republican leadership, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) says the party has no regrets over backing efforts to oust McCarthy.
“He proved himself totally untrustworthy,” said Nadler.
Nadler referred to the short term spending bill, which Democrats overwhelmingly voted for. He said that McCarthy went on TV the next day and said “the left” was preventing the resolution from passing.
“[McCarthy] lied through his teeth about us,” he said. “He had to go.”
Congress will now work to pass the budget for the 2024 fiscal year. In a press conference following the vote, Johnson said that the schedule may be “rigorous and ambitious” but will allow the House to avoid a government shutdown.
“We are ready to get to work again,” said Johnson.