WASHINGTON, D.C. (News21USA) – Representative Mike Johnson, a relatively lesser-known Louisiana Republican and a lower-ranking member of the GOP leadership team, emerged as the party’s latest nominee for House speaker on Tuesday night, following the withdrawal of three other contenders.
This development came shortly after Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn., secured the nomination earlier, only to relinquish his bid after failing to secure the near-unanimous GOP support required on the House floor.
Now, Johnson, who also serves as the GOP Conference vice chair, faces the challenge of gathering the essential 217 Republican votes, constituting a simple majority of the full House, to clinch the sought-after gavel.
A floor vote could materialize as soon as Wednesday afternoon.
Elected to Congress in 2016, Johnson enjoys popularity and high regard among his Republican peers, having adroitly steered clear of creating political adversaries on Capitol Hill.
Johnson, aged 51, has established a broad base of support, treading a path reminiscent of two of his political mentors: Majority Leader Steve Scalise, another Louisianan, and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio. These individuals also secured nominations for the position of House speaker before stepping down. All three initiated their political careers as state lawmakers, advanced to Congress, and served as the heads of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in Congress, before progressing to leadership roles.
Johnson’s objective is to succeed where the three previous nominees faltered: securing at least 217 of the 221 Republican votes required to become speaker. The timing and decision of holding such a vote rest with Johnson. While Jordan held multiple votes without success, Scalise and Emmer withdrew before conducting any floor votes, recognizing the absence of a viable path to victory.
Nationally, Johnson has maintained a low profile, eschewing incendiary rhetoric and theatrical stunts that many lawmakers employ to capture attention. Nevertheless, he wields substantial influence behind the scenes.
On Tuesday, during Johnson’s candidacy for the role of speaker, former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.’s political team disseminated a New York Times article describing the Louisiana Republican as “the most significant architect of the Electoral College objections” on Jan. 6, 2021, with the goal of maintaining then-President Donald Trump in power, despite his electoral loss.
Last year, The Times reported that Johnson was behind the argument presented by many Republicans who voted against certifying pro-Biden electors. The argument revolved around the notion that certain states’ voting changes during the pandemic were unconstitutional, avoiding the debunked claims of widespread election fraud.
Trump remains a wildcard in the speaker’s race, as he publicly opposed Emmer’s nomination on Tuesday due to Emmer’s vote to certify the 2020 election, which incurred the displeasure of Trump’s allies.
Johnson gained early momentum, with one rival, Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern, R-Okla., exiting the race and endorsing the Louisianan before the voting began.
To secure Tuesday night’s victory, Johnson outperformed the remaining four GOP candidates. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., was eliminated in the first round after securing the fewest votes.
In the second round, Small Business Chairman Roger Williams, R-Texas, was disqualified after receiving the lowest vote total, and Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green, R-Tenn., withdrew from the race, lending his support to Johnson, according to a GOP source.
During the third and final round, Johnson triumphed over Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., a member of the Freedom Caucus and one of the four Black Republicans in the House. The vote was decisive, with a GOP source reporting 128 votes for Johnson and 29 for Donalds. However, 44 Republicans cast their ballots for alternative candidates.
Of these 44 votes, McCarthy received 43, and Jordan received one, as confirmed by Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo. These 44 votes could present a significant challenge for Johnson in a House floor vote.
As the votes were being tallied, Texas Rep. Randy Weber exited the room, expressing his lack of confidence that any of the candidates could garner the necessary 217 votes, given the substantial level of support for individuals who were not even candidates.
“Weber said that when dozens of people ‘vote for ‘other,’ in police work, they call that a clue,” Weber noted.