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Baptist Mike Johnson elected speaker of the House after 3 weeks of infighting

Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks after his election at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 25, 2023.
Newly elected U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson speaks after his election at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 25, 2023. | Tom Brenner/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives has elected a new speaker after weeks of Republican infighting delayed the replacement of ousted former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. 

The House elected Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., the new speaker in a 220-209 vote Wednesday afternoon. All Republicans present in the chamber supported Johnson, while all Democrats present supported House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. Three Democrats and one Republican were absent.

In a statement posted to X shortly after his election, Johnson declared, "It is the honor of a lifetime to have been elected the 56th Speaker of the House." He expressed gratitude to his "colleagues, friends, staff, and family for the unmatched support throughout this process." 

"It has been an arduous few weeks and a reminder that the House is as complicated and diverse as the people we represent," he added. "The urgency of this moment demands bold, decisive action to restore trust, advance our legislative priorities, and demonstrate good governance. Our House Republican Conference is united, and eager to work."

Johnson, a conservative Baptist who has served in Congress since 2017, vowed to "ensure the House delivers results and inspires change for the American people" and to "restore trust in this body."

He signaled his intention to "advance a comprehensive conservative policy agenda, combat the harmful policies of the Biden Administration and support our allies abroad." Johnson concluded his message with a call to "get back to work."

Tony Perkins, a fellow Baptist from Louisiana and head of the national Christian conservative activist organization Family Research Council, stated in a social media post that Johnson has been a "friend for a long time." 

"I believe God has answered our prayers with his election," Perkins wrote. "Mike will be the America First Speaker we need and will lead with spiritual insight and political courage."

Johnson's election received a warm reception from prominent pro-life leaders. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life advocacy group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, released a statement praising Johnson as "a longtime defender of constitutional principles, chief among them the right to life" who has "boldly championed life as an activist, litigator, state legislator, and as a member of Congress." 

"These strong credentials will help him lead the pro-life movement in this exciting and challenging new era as speaker of the House," she predicted. "We are thrilled by the election of Speaker Johnson and look forward to working closely with him to advance national protections for unborn babies, serve mothers, and grow the pro-life House majority in 2024. We urge the entire GOP Conference to unite and give their full support to Mike Johnson as the new House speaker."

National Right to Life President Carol Tobias offered a similar analysis, identifying Johnson as a lawmaker "committed to the right to life" who "will make the right to life and protecting women and their unborn children a priority in Congress." The Louisiana chapter of National Right to Life cheered the election of "a strong ally of the pro-life movement" to the top job in the House, adding "Speaker Johnson will be a proudly pro-life Speaker of the House who will protect babies and help moms."

Johnson's election comes a day after previous speaker designee Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., withdrew from the race after failing to secure enough votes within his conference. Emmer emerged as the choice candidate among a majority of House Republicans following several rounds of voting Tuesday. 

Following Emmer's withdrawal from the race, a new slate of candidates threw their hat into the ring, and House Republicans met to select a new nominee who would head to the floor for a vote from the full House. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., chair of the House Republican Conference, provided updates on the selection process on her X account Tuesday evening.

Stefanik identified Johnson as well as Reps. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., Mark Green, R-Tenn., Kevin Hern, R-Okla., and Roger Williams, R-Texas, as candidates for speaker that would make their case to their Republican colleagues at a candidate forum that took place Tuesday evening. Hern, who had previously sought to become speaker in the rounds of voting that took place earlier in the day, withdrew from the race before voting began. 

Fleischmann was eliminated on the first ballot, while the field had whittled down to Donalds and Johnson by the third ballot. Johnson emerged as the choice of a majority of House Republicans, setting up Wednesday's vote in the full House. 

The drama in the House comes after eight Republicans joined with 208 Democrats to oust then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., three weeks ago. While the overwhelming majority of Republicans supported McCarthy, the small size of the Republican majority meant that McCarthy could only afford a few defections and remain in his position. The 216-210 vote to oust McCarthy led to an effort to find a candidate to unify the GOP's diverse factions. 

While House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., initially emerged as the preferred candidate of a majority of House Republicans, he dropped out after determining that he did not have the votes necessary to become speaker. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, then materialized as the speaker designee. The full House voted on making him speaker three times, and his support dropped from 200 on the first ballot to 199 on the second ballot and 194 in the third vote. 

Jordan withdrew from the race due to the lack of support, and a new round of candidates threw their hats into the ring. While Johnson was one of those candidates, he lost to Emmer. Emmer ultimately dropped out later Tuesday, and Johnson became the consensus choice of the House Republican Conference Tuesday night. 

Now that the House has a new speaker, the chamber can begin voting on legislation again. For the past three weeks, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., had been serving as speaker pro tempore, a position with limited powers. Throughout that period, the efforts to elect a new speaker constituted the only voting that took place in the House.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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