House Republicans ‘United’ Behind Mike Johnson, Fueling Hope Speaker Will Finally Be Elected

Lawrence Wilson
By Lawrence Wilson
October 24, 2023Congress
House Republicans ‘United’ Behind Mike Johnson, Fueling Hope Speaker Will Finally Be Elected
Mike Johnson (C) (R-La.) speaks after being nominated by Republicans for speaker of the House of Representatives at Capitol Hill, in Washington on Oct. 24, 2023. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

House Republicans named their fourth, and possibly final, speaker designate on Oct. 24—just hours after their third candidate was nominated and then withdrew for lack of support. The development capped off an extraordinary day as the chamber hit three weeks without a speaker.

Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) was elected with 128 votes in an evening session after losing to Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) that morning. Mr. Emmer had resigned within four hours having unsuccessfully tried to persuade about 25 Republican holdouts to support his candidacy, which was opposed by former President Donald Trump.

A confirming voice vote was taken following the nominating ballot. When reporters asked how many votes Mr. Johnson had received, excited conference members shouted, “All of them!” suggesting that the group had reached a consensus.

There were no votes in opposition, though three members voted “present” and about 19 were absent, according to lawmakers. Mr. Johnson, however, was confident that he would gain the full support of the conference.

A vote on the House floor was scheduled for noon on Oct. 25.

“I’m honored to have the support of my colleagues,” Mr. Johnson told reporters inside the conference room after the event. “This is servant leadership. We’re going to serve the people of this country. We’re going to restore their faith in this country,” he added, promising swift action to reform the way government works. “We are going to serve you well.”

This level of unity among Republicans has proven elusive over the past three weeks as a total of 15 members have vied for the speakership with none able to claim victory. Mr. Johnson’s nearly unanimous nomination promises the end of an agonizing process that revealed deep divisions within the Republican conference.

Candidates for the fourth round of nominations included Reps. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) and Mike Johnson (R-La.), who had competed against Mr. Emmer earlier in the day.

They were joined by Reps. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn), Mark Green (R-Tenn.), and Roger Williams (R-Texas).

Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), who had also run in the previous round, withdrew from the race prior to the first ballot and endorsed Mr. Johnson.

Roller Coaster Day

Filing into the 6 p.m. session, fatigue and frustration born from weeks of infighting were evident among members. Hope of a quick resolution to the speakership crisis had been replaced by the sober realization that their conference was deeply divided.

“I’m very disappointed, but, more importantly, my constituents are very disappointed,” Rep. Vern Buchannan (R-Fla.) said of the many older people in his south Florida district who have watched the drama play out on television. “They’re very upset.”

“I think it is apparent to the American people that the GOP conference is hopelessly divided,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) told reporters. “I’m sad. I’m heartbroken. A lot of really, really good people have been left in the wake here.”

“First, McCarthy was the one with problems, then Steve Scalise, then Jim Jordan, then Tom Emmer,” Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) lamented. “It may be that Republicans in the House have been conditioned to just say no unless they get everything they want. Now, that way lies madness.”

Still, those and other Republicans voiced the weary determination of an athlete struggling to overcome long odds late in the game.

“I’m upset, but we’re going to make it happen,” Mr. Buchanan said. “I’m an optimist. We’ve got to get the government running.”

“I think we should be here as long as it takes to figure it out who gets it,” Rep Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla) said, a sentiment echoed by several members including Mr. Burchett.

“It might be ‘till two in the morning,” Mr. Burchett said, but he hoped the conference would stay in session until a candidate received 217 votes.

As for the rejection of candidates based on particular votes they had cast, Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) said, “We’re better than that. We’ve got to put that aside and get somebody in the chair that can make decisions. And I think we’ll do that tonight.”

The Fourth Speaker Designate

The evening conference followed the same format as the previous nominating session: brief candidate speeches followed by a question and answer period, then voting by secret ballot with the lowest vote earner eliminated from consideration.

Prior to the vote, Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) asked if any member was a “hard no” for any of the six candidates, according to Mr. Norman. No hands were raised, offering hope that a consensus candidate could be found at last.

Mr. Johnson placed first with 85 votes. Mr. Donalds received 32 votes, Mr. Green, 23, and Mr. Williams 21. Mr. Fleishchmann received 10 votes and was eliminated. Other unspecified candidates received a combined 31 votes, and two members voted “present.”

On the second ballot, Mr. Johnson received 97 votes, Mr. Donalds received 31 votes, Mr. Green, 21 votes, and Mr. Williams, 20. Unspecified others received 34 votes. Mr. Williams was eliminated. Mr. Green dropped out, endorsing Mr. Johnson.

Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) asked unanimous consent to have the “others” named. They were former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who received 33 votes, and Mr. Jordan, who received 1 vote.

Mr. Johnson received 128 votes on the third ballot and was elected.

30-Day Agenda

When the House resumes business after a full three weeks of inactivity, a new speaker will have to move quickly on a range of legislative issues.

The first and simplest is likely to be the passage of a resolution in support of Israel’s right to self-defense, a symbolic measure, which has gained 425 co-sponsors.

Related to that, the House will consider a request from President Joe Biden for some $105 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine, Israel, allies in the Indo-Pacific, and border security. While Republicans are eager to support Israel and strengthen border security, many are leery of Ukraine aid and believe those requests should be considered individually rather than as a bundle.

The appropriations process must be resolved by Nov. 17. The speakership crisis was provoked when former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) passed a 45-day continuing spending resolution (CR) on Sept. 30, narrowly averting a government shutdown.

Given the three-week delay in concluding the appropriations process, some members have said they believe a second CR is all but inevitable. Others have demanded that the House instead pass the remaining eight appropriations bills and reconcile them with the Senate before the current CR expires.

The House is also expected to consider imposing additional sanctions on Iranian oil sales in an attempt to reduce their ability to fund terrorist activities.

Unfinished Business

Some rancor remains in the Republican conference over the events of the preceding three weeks, which include the ouster of the previous speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

Mr. McCarthy described the preceding three weeks as “a total embarrassment” that had demoralized Republican members.

“We already have Debbie Lesko [resigning] during this process. There are a number of others who have talked to me. I think they’re frustrated by the process. I hope they stay,” Mr. McCarthy said.

As for the eight Republicans who voted to remove the previous speaker, “There have to be consequences,” Mr. McCarthy said, noting that they violated a Republican conference rule requiring the support of 50 percent of GOP members to introduce a motion to vacate the chair.

House rules allow such a motion to be introduced by one member.

Jackson Richman, Joseph Lord, Ryusuke Abe, and NTD’s Melina Wisecup contributed to this report.

From The Epoch Times

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