Republicans nominate Mike Johnson for House speaker after Emmer’s withdrawal

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Republicans chose Rep. Mike Johnson as their latest nominee for House speaker late Tuesday, hours after an earlier pick, Rep. Tom Emmer, abruptly withdrew in the face of opposition from Donald Trump and hardline GOP lawmakers.

Johnson of Louisiana, a lower-ranked member of the House GOP 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 GOP 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.

Three weeks on, the Republicans are frittering away their majority status—a maddening embarrassment to some, democracy in action to others, but not at all how the House is expected to function.

“Pretty sad commentary on governance right now,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark. “Maybe on the fourth or fifth or sixth or 10th try we’ll get this thing right.”

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 GOP 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 front-runner 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.

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.

“We’re in the same cul-de-sac,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., the chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus.

Yet Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., one of the hardliners, said, “This is what democracy looks like.”

One idea circulating, first reported by NBC News, was to reinstall McCarthy as speaker with hardline Rep. Jim Jordan in a new leadership role.

It was being pitched as a way to unite the conference, lawmakers said, but they were not certain it would fly.

“I think sometimes it’s good to have fresh ideas and fresh people,” said Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind.

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.”

Others were eliminated during multiple rounds of voting, including Donalds and Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, a conservative leader and former McDonald’s franchise owner who plied his colleagues with hamburgers seeking their support. Reps. Austin Scott of Georgia, Jack Bergman of Michigan, Pete Sessions of Texas, Gary Palmer of Alabama and Dan Meuser of Pennsylvania also dropped out.

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 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.

Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, the hard-right leader who engineered McCarthy’s ouster, has said several of those who were running—Hern, Donalds or Johnson—would make a “phenomenal” choice for speaker.

Nevertheless, Gaetz voted for Emmer, though others who joined in ousting McCarthy did not.

Many Emmer opponents were resisting a leader who voted for the budget deal that McCarthy struck with Biden earlier this year, which set federal spending levels that far-right Republicans don’t agree with and now want to undo. They are pursuing steeper cuts to federal programs and services with next month’s funding deadline.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said she wanted assurances the candidates would pursue impeachment inquiries into Biden and other top Cabinet officials.

During the turmoil, the House is now led by a nominal interim speaker pro tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., the bow tie-wearing chairman of the Financial Services Committee. His main job is to elect a more permanent speaker.

Some Republicans—and Democrats—would like to simply give McHenry more power to get on with the routine business of governing. But McHenry, the first person to be in the position that was created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as an emergency measure, has declined to back those overtures.

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8 thoughts on “Republicans nominate Mike Johnson for House speaker after Emmer’s withdrawal

  1. Your father’s GOP is dead and buried. Lindsay Graham said it best – “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed … and we will deserve it.” They have sold their souls to the devil, who they believe is the messiah. There are almost no Republicans remaining in the mold of Dick Lugar, Doc Bowen or Bill Hudnut. If one does not pledge total and complete loyalty to Trump, one is labeled a “RINO” and will not succeed in today’s GOP.

    1. Isn’t it wonderful? Dick Lugar and Bill Hudnut were certainly standard-bearers and were the right figures for their party at that time, much like JFK was in the 1960s and Clinton in the 1990s for the Democrats.

      But the neo-con ethos has strangulated the Republican party for a good 30+ years, and while nobody expects them to quit without a fight, we didn’t expect quite the “poor quality candidates” financial mismanagement on the part of Cocaine Mitch that would deliberately undermine good candidates in many states, all for the sake of saving his vulnerable crony Lisa Murkowski in Alaska–who is fundamentally indistinct from both Liz Cheney and Nancy Pelosi. They probably all went out for “girls lunch” at Panera (or the billionaire’s equivalent to Panera) each Tuesday, along with Amy Klobuchar as number four.

      Just a friendly reminder to the morally panicked neo-libs who dominated this site: it was Lindsey-windsey Graham who wanted a blanket ban on abortions, not one of those MAGA Chuds. In fact, #45 told the GOP they need to chill out on abortion now that Roe v Wade is overturned. It was the neo-cons who wanted to push it further. (Granted, many of us think they deliberately did it to embolden Dems and help ensure GOP defeat in places where McConnell’s “low quality candidates” might win.)

      And, of course, there are those other positions that the “far-right” holds that are just so strange:
      – seeking an end to warmongering and America’s grotesque military interference in Second/Third World countries
      – reigning in the power of megacorporations and their unholy influence on federal political campaigns
      – challenging regressive finance schemes that disproportionately hurt the working and lower-middle class and favor the elites (student debt forgiveness comes to mind)

      MAGA would cease to exist in a matter of two weeks if the uniparty would actually start representing political interests of ordinary people, most of whom are 5-10 paychecks away from destitution. Because that characterizes the middle class, which is still a majority of the population, at least for now.

    2. If the far right actually cared about limiting corporations, how come they never seem to care about campaign finance reform and SuperPAC’s?

      If they cared about the cost of higher education, why wouldn’t they do something other than just work on destroying it?

      If they actually cared about limiting wars, why wouldn’t they pick up a history book and see that withdrawing ends up being a worse play than engaging?

      Occurs to me they aren’t interested in any of that. They want to be the new uniparty, even though Gaetz has laid bare that their only skill is destroying things, not building them. They are domestic terrorists doing the work of Putin or Xi.

      MAGA is about destroying America and replacing it with your average 1980’s Central American “democracy” in its place.

    3. I love Lauren’s points and how Trump did not accomplish a single item around them aside from reversing some during his 4 years – get excited for your taxes to go up jan1 under the trump tax laws if you make 50-150k…

  2. I have a bad feeling this clown is going to get the nod. Moderate Republicans, especially those in blue states, will be threatened with having campaign funding support yanked away, and maybe facing a primary MAGA opponent.
    Yes, the Republican party of the past (but not my father; he was an ardent Democrat though he supported Hudnut and Lugar) is gone. The circus tent that replaced it cannot govern, they can only destroy.

  3. I humbly suggest that when this clown gets out of the clown car that the spectacularly failed Republican Party nominate Representative John Doe to be the next speaker. Here’s a tip for all the self-described fiscal conservatives: please return your paychecks since you are so busy not doing your jobs. As if…

  4. Surely there are at least five Republican representatives NOT running for reelection in 2024…if five got together and cut a deal with the Democrats, then THAT would be “democracy in action”.

  5. Charlie Brown kicked the football!

    Now, three weeks until the government shuts down because Republicans will throw a tantrum unless they get everything they want with no compromises. It’s like negotiating with terrorists … just don’t do it.

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