Mike Johnson, a Republican congressman representing Louisiana’s fourth district, became the 56th US Speaker of the House on Wednesday, 25 October, after the House of Representatives confirmed his nomination in a 220–209 vote, split along party lines.
The House Speaker position became vacant on 3 October. Kevin McCarthy from California became the first Speaker in US history to be removed from the position by the House. In the 3 October vote, 208 Democrats and eight Republicans voted for the historic removal. The vote was triggered by Republican congressman Matt Gaetz from Florida, who objected to McCarthy passing a spending bill with the help of the Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.
Kevin McCarthy’s position as House Speaker, despite the Republican victory in the 2022 House elections, had always been on shaky ground.
First off, the GOP ended up with a much slimmer victory (and thus, a more narrow majority) in the lower chamber of Congress than originally expected going into the Midterms in the fall of 2022.
He also faced opposition within his own party, from the more conservative, ‘MAGA’ faction, when he was nominated for the Speaker role. Former House Speaker McCarthy was only confirmed on the 15th ballot in January 2023, after making many concessions to the so-called ‘Freedom Caucus’.
Those concessions included a rule change according to which only one member is enough from the majority party to start the process of removing the Speaker, known as ‘motion to vacate’. Prior to 2023, five different House Representatives were needed to start the process. This compromise turned out to be fatal for McCarthy. However, while he lost his House Speaker role, he retains his seat in the US House of Representatives.
Mike Johnson had an easier time passing the House vote, he ‘only’ needed four ballots to be confirmed as the next Speaker. However, he was not the first choice to be put on the ballot, unlike McCarthy.
Jim Jordan from Ohio was the nominee on the first three ballots—however, he failed to get the majority of votes cast after the more centrist part of the Republican Party refused to back him.
House Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s name was floated next, but as it became clear to the congressman from Minnesota that he did not have the majority’s support either, he dropped out of the race even before a vote.
That’s how we got to Mike Johnson being nominated, who passed the vote on his first try.
Who is New US Speaker of the House Mike Johnson?
Congressman Johnson was first elected to the US House of Representatives in 2016, the year Donald Trump won the presidential election, from the Southern state of Louisiana. He has been reelected three times since.
He is of the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, allied with Former President Donald Trump. Johnson led the effort by 126 House Republicans to officially support the Texas v. Pennsylvania Supreme Court case, challenging the validity of the result of the 2020 presidential election. He also voted against all but one aid package to Ukraine, only voting in favour of the first one right at the beginning of the Russian invasion.
‘We want our allies around the world to know that this body of lawmakers is reporting again to our duty stations,’
House Speaker Johnson said at the ceremonial handing over of the Speaker’s gavel at the US Capitol building.