The US Republican Party has embarked on its fourth attempt in just two weeks to select a new Speaker for the House of Representatives following the removal of the previous speaker. This succession of nominations underscores the internal turmoil and disarray within the party, as three prior candidates were unable to secure the position.
The latest nominee, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, emerged victorious in an internal party vote, seizing the nomination shortly after Majority Whip Tom Emmer withdrew from the race due to a significant backlash led by former President Donald Trump.
Since the historic dismissal of Kevin McCarthy in a far-right rebellion on October 3, the US Congress has been paralyzed, unable to address multiple pressing global crises and the imminent threat of a government shutdown.
The ongoing chaos within the Republican Party has not gone unnoticed. Kentucky Republican Andy Barr expressed his exasperation on CNN, saying, “The dysfunction in the Republican Party right now seems to be saying we want to lose. That is crazy to me. We were elected as a majority to govern, and we are not doing that right now.”
Mike Johnson, the vice chairman of the conference and a relatively inexperienced figure in politics, had earlier lost to Emmer but swiftly re-entered the race after Emmer’s withdrawal. However, it remains uncertain whether Johnson can overcome the same internal divisions that have plagued the party, preventing it from uniting behind any leader.
This latest turmoil comes two weeks after the party’s initial nominee to replace McCarthy, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, withdrew from the race when it became evident that he lacked the 217 votes needed for election. Subsequent nominee Jim Jordan, a staunch Trump ally, faced rejection three times on the House floor as an increasing number of Republican opponents joined Democrats in opposing his candidacy.
The desperation within the Republican ranks has grown, with Kevin McCarthy proposing a seemingly improbable plan that would see him reinstalled as Speaker with Jim Jordan as his assistant.
If Mike Johnson manages to succeed where his predecessors have failed, he would become the least experienced Speaker in over a century, with no prior experience in chairing committees or holding top leadership roles. His tenure would involve navigating potential government shutdowns, budget negotiations for 2024, and addressing critical issues such as funding for Ukraine and Israel in their conflicts with Russia and Hamas.
Mike Johnson, who transitioned to the House from state-level politics in 2017, is perhaps best known for his role in rallying over 100 Republicans to support a legal brief seeking to overturn the 2020 election results in four swing states won by Joe Biden.
With a slim margin for success, Johnson can only afford to lose four Republican votes if all Democrats vote against him. However, as of now, there is no election scheduled as the House adjourned until Wednesday. In the final round of balloting, only 128 of Johnson’s colleagues supported his candidacy, with 29 favoring his rival, Florida lawmaker Byron Donalds, and an additional 44 casting votes for other candidates.
Notably, Tom Emmer, like Johnson, had raised unfounded doubts about the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory over Trump. However, Emmer’s decision to certify the result provoked anger among supporters of the former president. Trump himself took to his Truth social website to brand Emmer a “globalist RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only,” and claimed credit for Emmer’s withdrawal as he spoke to reporters during his New York civil fraud trial.