Johnson won House Republicans’ speaker nomination on Tuesday evening, just hours after Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the majority whip, was forced to withdraw from the race amid criticism from Donald Trump. Defeating Byron Donalds of Florida after three rounds of voting, Johnson became House Republicans’ fourth speaker nominee in three weeks.
An internal roll call vote taken after Johnson’s nomination showed no opposition to his speakership bid, although a number of Republicans were absent. Johnson will have his first opportunity to get a clear sense of his prospects on Wednesday, when the House gavels into session at noon.
In an attempt to present a united front, Johnson held a press conference on Tuesday night with dozens of Republican members, and he promised to restore Americans’ trust in governance.
“Democracy is messy sometimes, but it is our system,” Johnson said. “This conference that you see, this House Republican majority, is united.”
Formally nominating Johnson as speaker on Wednesday, the House Republican conference chair, Elise Stefanik of New York, praised Johnson’s conservative credentials and projected optimism about his chances of success in the floor vote.
“Today is the day that House Republicans will humbly look in our hearts and elect Mike Johnson as speaker of the people’s House,” Stefanik said. “Today is the day we get this done.”
But there are already signs of trouble for Johnson’s hopes of becoming speaker. In the final round of voting on Tuesday, Johnson received 128 votes to Donalds’s 29 votes, but the former speaker Kevin McCarthy, who did not formally campaign for the nomination, received 43 votes.
If even a fraction of those members oppose Johnson on the floor, they could sink his speakership bid. As Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the House, Johnson can only afford four defections within his party and still become speaker.
Johnson may also face concerns over his history of supporting Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Johnson, who practiced constitutional law before entering politics, was the architect of a questionable legal argument that offered air cover to House Republicans who wanted to sign an amicus brief urging the US supreme court to throw out the electoral votes of key battleground states won by Joe Biden. More than 100 House Republicans signed on to the amicus brief, but the supreme court ultimately threw out the underlying lawsuit challenging the election results.
When a reporter attempted to ask Johnson about his election denial campaign during his press conference, she was shouted down by House Republicans, who booed the journalist until Johnson moved on to the next question.
The House Democratic leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, criticized Republicans for empowering a man who played a central role in denying the results of the election, despite no evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims of widespread fraud.
“The twice-impeached former president ordered House Republicans to stop Tom Emmer and elevate a top election denier. Is anyone surprised that they complied?” Jeffries said on X, formerly known as Twitter.
As he nominated Jeffries for the speakership on Wednesday, the House Democratic caucus chair, Pete Aguilar of California, attacked Republicans as unqualified to govern because of their election denial.
“House Democrats believe that when members of this body voted to reject the results of the 2020 election, they forfeited their ability to lead this chamber,” Aguilar said. “But if House Republicans choose, they can still join us on a bipartisan path forward. Let’s come together to fund our government, support our allies abroad and deliver for working families. End the chaos, end the dysfunction, end the extremism. Let’s open up the people’s House.”
The floor vote on Johnson’s nomination comes less than a week after Jim Jordan of Ohio abandoned his speakership campaign due to entrenched opposition among more moderate Republicans. Days before that, Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority leader, dropped out of the race because he could not sway hard-right lawmakers who threatened to vote against him on the floor.
The House has now been without a speaker since the historic removal of McCarthy earlier this month, and the chamber will remain at a standstill until a new leader is elected. Biden has called on Congress to pass an aid package to assist America’s allies like Ukraine and Israel, but the House cannot take up such a bill without a speaker.
That deadlock could come to an end on Wednesday if Johnson is successful.
Evan Massoud is a political analyst with a knack for dissecting policy and governance. He provides readers with informed perspectives on political developments at home and abroad. Evan’s dedication to civic engagement extends to volunteering in local politics.