Finally! Republicans elect a Speaker of the House: Mike Johnson of Louisiana

House Speaker Mike Johnson (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Republicans eagerly elected Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson as House speaker on Wednesday, elevating a staunchly conservative but lesser-known leader to the seat of U.S. power and ending for now the political chaos in their majority.

Johnson, 51, swept through on the first ballot with support from all Republicans anxious to put the past weeks of tumult behind and get on with the business of governing. He was quickly sworn into office.

“We are ready to get to work again,” he said after taking the gavel.

To the American people watching he said, “Our mission here is to serve you well and to restore the people’s faith in this House.”

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A lower-ranked member of the House GOP leadership team, Johnson emerged as the fourth Republican nominee in what had become an almost absurd cycle of political infighting since Kevin McCarthy’s ouster as GOP factions jockeyed for power. While not the party’s top choice for the gavel, the deeply religious and even-keeled Johnson has few foes and an important GOP backer: Donald Trump.

“I think he’s gonna be a fantastic speaker,” Trump said Wednesday at the New York courthouse where the former president, who is now the Republican front-runner for president in 2024, is on trial over a lawsuit alleging business fraud.

Three weeks on without a House speaker, the Republicans have been wasting their majority status — a maddening embarrassment to some, democracy in action to others, but not at all how the House is expected to function.

Far-right members had refused to accept a more traditional speaker, and moderate conservatives didn’t want a hard-liner. While Johnson had no opponents during a private party roll call late Tuesday, some two dozen Republicans did not vote, more than enough to sink his nomination.

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But when GOP Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik rose to introduce Johnson’s name Wednesday as their nominee, Republicans jumped to their feet for a standing ovation.

“House Republicans and Speaker Mike Johnson will never give up,” she said.

Democrats again nominated their leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, criticizing Johnson as an architect of Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election he lost to Democrat Joe Biden.

With Republicans controlling the House only 221-212 over Democrats, Johnson could afford just a few detractors to win the gavel. He won 220-209, with a few absences.

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Jeffries said House Democrats will work with Republicans whenever possible for the “good of the country.”

Overnight the endorsements for Johnson started pouring in, including from failed speaker hopefuls. Rep. Jim Jordan, the hard-charging Judiciary Committee chairman, gave his support, as did Majority Leader Steve Scalise, the fellow Louisiana congressman, who stood behind Johnson after he won the nomination.

“Mike! Mike! Mike!” lawmakers chanted at a press conference after the late-night internal vote, surrounding Johnson and posing for selfies in a show of support.

Anxious and exhausted, Republican lawmakers are desperately trying to move on.

Johnson’s rise comes after a tumultuous month, capped by a head-spinning Tuesday that within a span of a few hours saw one candidate, Rep. Tom Emmer, the GOP Whip, nominated and then quickly withdraw when it became clear he would be the third candidate unable to secure enough support from GOP colleagues after Trump bashed his nomination.

“He wasn’t MAGA,” said Trump, referring to his Make America Great Again campaign slogan.

Attention quickly turned to Johnson. A lawyer specializing in constitutional issues, Johnson had rallied Republicans around Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 election results.

Elevating Johnson to speaker gives Louisianians two high-ranking GOP leaders, putting him above Scalise, who was rejected by hard-liners in his own bid as speaker.

Johnson is affable and well liked, with a fiery belief system, and colleagues swiftly started giving him their support.

“Democracy is messy sometimes, but it is our system,” Johnson said after winning the nomination. “We’re going to restore your trust in what we do here.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who led a small band of hard-liners to engineer McCarthy’s ouster at the start of the month, posted on social media that “Mike Johnson won’t be the Speaker the Swamp wants but, he is the Speaker America needs.”