Republicans chose Rep. Mike Johnson as their latest nominee for U.S. House Speaker late Tuesday, hours after an earlier pick, Rep. Tom Emmer, abruptly withdrew in the face of opposition from former president Donald Trump and hardline conservative lawmakers.
Johnson of Louisiana, a lower-ranked member of the House Republican leadership team, becomes the fourth nominee after Emmer and the others fell short in what has become an almost absurd cycle of political infighting since Kevin McCarthy’s ouster as Republican factions jockey for power.
Refusing to unify, far right members won’t accept a more traditional speaker and more moderate members don’t want a hardliner. Johnson immediately faced a roll call behind closed doors to test his support ahead of a House floor vote, when he’ll need almost all Republicans to win the gavel.
“Pretty sad commentary on governance right now,” said Republican Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas. “Maybe on the fourth or fifth or sixth or 10th try we’ll get this thing right.”
Emmer ‘not MAGA enough,’ Trump says
After he withdrew Tuesday afternoon, Emmer briskly left the building where he had been meeting privately with Republicans, but he returned later to offices at the Capitol. He said Trump’s opposition did not affect his decision to bow out.
“I made my decision based on my relationship with the conference,” he said, referring to the Republican majority. He said he would support whomever emerges as the new nominee. “We’ll get it done.”
Trump, speaking as he left the courtroom in New York where he faces business fraud charges, said his “un-endorsement” must have had an impact on Emmer’s bid.
“He wasn’t MAGA,” said Trump, the party’s frontrunner for the 2024 presidential election, referring to his Make America Great Again campaign slogan.
House Republicans returned behind closed doors, where they spend much of their time, desperately searching for a leader who can unite the factions, reopen the House and get the U.S. Congress working again.
Emmer of Minnesota had jumped out in front during private morning balloting among a hodgepodge list of mostly lesser-known congressmen aspiring to be speaker, a powerful position second in line to the presidency.
While Emmer won a simple majority in a roll call behind closed doors — 117 votes — he lost more than two dozen Republicans, leaving him far short of what will be needed during a House floor tally ahead.
But Trump allies, including the influential hard-right instigator Steve Bannon, have been critical of Emmer. Some point to his support of a same-sex marriage initiative and perceived criticisms of the former president. Among the far-right groups pressuring lawmakers over the speaker’s vote, some quickly attacked Emmer.
Coming in a steady second in the morning balloting, Johnson offered his full support to Emmer, saying, “What we have to do in this room is unite and begin to govern again.”
‘We’re in the same cul-de-sac’
After Emmer dropped out, attention quickly turned to Johnson of Louisiana, a member of party leadership who was the second highest vote-getter on Tuesday’s internal ballots. He earned 128 votes in the evening vote.
A lawyer specializing in constitutional issues, Johnson had rallied Republicans around Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 election results.
But hardliners swiftly resisted Johnson’s bid and a new list of candidates emerged within minutes of an evening deadline. Among them was Reps. Byron Donalds of Florida, a Trump ally who ran third on the morning ballot, and a few others. McCarthy, who was not on the ballot, won a surprising 43 votes.
Republican infighting has brought the House to a standstill for 21 days.<br><br>House Democrats have offered a bipartisan path forward to reopen the House and get back to work. It’s time for Republicans to end this chaos and join us.
“We’re in the same cul-de-sac,” said Republican Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, the chair of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.
Yet Republican Rep. Ralph Norman of South Carolina, one of the hardliners, said, “This is what democracy looks like.”
Having rejected the top replacements, Majority Leader Steve Scalise and the Trump-backed Jordan, there is no longer any obvious choice for the job.
With Republicans controlling the House 221-212 over Democrats, any GOP nominee can afford just a few detractors to win the gavel.
Republicans have been flailing all month, unable to conduct routine business as they fight amongst themselves with daunting challenges ahead.
The federal government risks a shutdown in a matter of weeks if Congress fails to pass funding legislation by a Nov. 17 deadline to keep services and offices running. More immediately, President Joe Biden has asked Congress to provide $105 billion US in aid — to help Israel and Ukraine amid their wars and to shore up the U.S. border with Mexico. Federal aviation and farming programs face expiration without action.
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