Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana — the fourth Republican to be nominated for House speaker since Rep. Kevin McCarthy was ousted three weeks ago — won the speakership in a party-line vote on Wednesday. The final vote was 220-209.

Johnson, who represents a district in western Louisiana, was first elected to the House in 2016. He is a close ally of former President Donald Trump whose arguments formed the basis of many lawmakers’ objections to the Electoral College results after the 2020 election. 

What is Johnson’s connection to 2020 election challenges?

After the 2020 election, Johnson led an amicus brief signed by more than 100 House Republicans in support of a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to overturn the election results in four swing states won by President Biden.

Rep. Mike Johnson speaks after being elected as  Republicans’ speaker nominee on Capitol Hill on Oct. 24, 2023.

Win McNamee / Getty Images

The brief claimed that the officials and courts in each of the battleground states unconstitutionally usurped the power granted to state legislators by changing election rules in 2020. The Supreme Court rejected the request, saying it lacked legal standing. 

According to The New York Times, about three-quarters of the arguments that lawmakers used to justify overturning the election results relied on arguments from Johnson.

Ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, joint session of Congress to count the Electoral College votes, Johnson urged lawmakers to follow a “third option,” saying the way the states had changed voting rules during the pandemic had been unconstitutional, according to The New York Times. 

On Tuesday night, he shut down a question from a reporter about his push to overturn the 2020 election results while his fellow Republicans booed.

What is Johnson’s background?

According to Johnson’s House biography, he is a constitutional lawyer who served in the Louisiana legislature from 2015 until 2017. 

His biography touts his “20 years successfully litigating high profile constitutional law cases in district and appellate courts nationwide and is widely recognized as a leading defender of the right to life, religious liberty, free speech, the Second Amendment and free market principles.” 

Johnson and his wife, Kelly Johnson, have been married since 1999 and they have four children. 

What has Johnson done on Capitol Hill?

While not one of the highest-ranking members of Republican leadership in the House, Johnson currently serves as the vice chair of the Republican conference, having won election from his fellow GOP members.

Johnson also serves as a deputy whip.

How did Johnson end up getting the nomination for speaker?

The road to Johnson’s nomination among Republicans has been messy. McCarthy was the first speaker in history to be removed by a vote on the House floor, leaving a vacancy in the Republican leadership while the party holds a razor-thin majority.

After McCarthy was removed, the Republican conference held a closed-door, secret ballot vote for a new speaker nominee between Majority Leader Steve Scalise and right-wing Rep. Jim Jordan, which Scalise won. Scalise withdrew his nomination the next day due to a lack of support. 

House Republicans then nominated Jordan, although the deep divisions remained within the party. A last-minute challenger to Jordan, Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia, received roughly 80 votes, according to members in the meeting, an ominous omen for Jordan’s prospects. 

Jordan took his nomination to the floor, and went on to lose three floor votes over four days. Republicans dropped him as the nominee, and nine Republicans ultimately jumped in the race to be the next speaker at Tuesday’s conference meeting.

After several rounds of closed-door, secret ballot voting, Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota prevailed and became House Republicans’ next nominee on Tuesday. But within hours, he withdrew his name from consideration after hardline conservatives refused to back him based on his vote to certify the 2020 election and his support of same-sex marriage.

The House Republican conference held another speaker forum Tuesday night and several more rounds of voting, with Johnson prevailing. 

–Melissa Quinn contributed to this report.

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