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Meet Mike Johnson, US House Speaker & DC's most Googled person
Meet Mike Johnson, US House Speaker & DC's most Googled person | US Politics In: 60 | GZERO Media

Meet Mike Johnson, US House Speaker & DC's most Googled person

Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, DC, shares his perspective on US politics.

Who is Mike Johnson?

Mike Johnson became the most commonly Googled person in Washington, DC, this week when he won a surprising bid for the House speakership after Republicans failed to rally around multiple nominations from across their caucus once they removed former speaker Kevin McCarthy from his seat several weeks ago.

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Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) addresses the U.S. House of Representatives after he was elected to be the new Speaker at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 25, 2023.

REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

A speaker at last

As former US President Gerald Ford once told his fellow Americans, “Our long national nightmare is over.” On Wednesday, House Republicans united to elect Mike Johnson of Louisiana the new speaker of the House of Representatives.

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Speakerless House shows weakness to US adversaries, says Rep. Mike Waltz
Speakerless House shows weakness to US adversaries, says Rep. Mike Waltz | GZERO World

Speakerless House shows weakness to US adversaries, says Rep. Mike Waltz

It's not a particularly comfortable moment to be a House Republican on Capitol Hill. Unable to agree on a Speaker, the House remains paralyzed and unable to do crucial work on a wide array of domestic and foreign policy priorities. Israel, of course, is at the top of that list. Republican Congressman Mike Waltz worries that the paralysis on Capitol Hill is playing right into the hands of America's adversaries.

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Paralyzed US House is an “absolute nightmare” - Sen. Chris Murphy
Paralyzed US House is an “absolute nightmare” - Sen. Chris Murphy | GZERO World

Paralyzed US House is an “absolute nightmare” - Sen. Chris Murphy

A House (of bickering Republicans) divided against itself, cannot stand. Forgive the redux of Abraham Lincoln's famous quote, but it seems particularly relevant in light of another week of total paralysis on Capitol Hill. Namely, within the House Republican caucus.

According to Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who sat down with Ian Bremmer for an interview on GZERO World, the chaos in the House chamber due to Republicans' inability to nominate a House speaker may, in fact, be a feature, not a bug. "The House is just an absolute nightmare, and it's a really bad look for the United States. It weakens President Biden's credibility abroad."

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Speaker of the House of Representatives Pro Tem Patrick McHenry (Republican of North Carolina), left, talks with House Speaker nominee United States Representative Jim Jordan (Republican of Ohio) in the moments prior to the vote for Speaker of the House of Representatives, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Wednesday, October 18, 2023. The House of Representatives has been without speaker since Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy (Republican of California) was ousted from the speakership on October 4, 2023, during a vote initiated by United States Representative Matt Gaetz (Republican of Florida), and led by a small group of fellow Republicans.

Rod Lamkey / CNP/Sipa USA via Reuters

Are Republicans giving up on electing a speaker?

Having failed to win the backing of the 217 Republican members he needed to become speaker of the US House of Representatives in two rounds of voting, Jim Jordan of Ohio announced Thursday morning that he would not call for a third vote. He did not, however, withdraw his name from future consideration. For now, he remains the official Republican Party nominee for speaker.

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Oct 18, 2023; Washington, DC, USA; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio is seen on the House floor as lawmakers hold a second vote to elect a new speaker in Washington.

Jack Gruber-USA TODAY via Reuters

The road ahead for House Republicans

With the current balance of power in the US House of Representatives, no Republican can become speaker without winning at least 217 of the party’s 221 members. Jim Jordan of Ohio became the latest to give it a shot, but he fell short by 20 votes on Tuesday and then by 22 votes on Wednesday.

These numbers suggest he’s not going to get there. Some Republicans who voted for others fear hardliner Jordan would endanger their chances of winning reelection in moderate districts. Some dislike Jordan personally. There’s also probably some overlap between these two groups. These are the lawmakers who have blocked Jordan’s path.

Given the fates of ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California and failed wannabe replacement Steve Scalise of Louisiana, it appears no one can unite this GOP House caucus. At least for now.

There is an alternative. Once again, the need to respond to the Israel crisis and to bargain with Democrats to avoid yet another threatened government shutdown next month has reignited talk that Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, now acting as the temporary speaker, will be given the job for some set period (perhaps one to three months) while Republicans try again to work out their differences.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, came up short in his bid to win the House Speaker post on Tuesday.

Craig Hudson-USA TODAY via Reuters

Jordan’s shot for the speaker, close to no avail

One vote down, co-founder of the Freedom Caucus Jim Jordan is still 17 votes shy of the 217 votes needed to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives.

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Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA), the House Majority Leader, speaks to media after a House Republican Conference meeting, at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, October 12, 2023.

Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA via Reuters

Scalise quits. Now what?

Though Steve Scalise of Louisiana managed to win enough secret-ballot votes from fellow House Republicans on Wednesday to become the party’s nominee for House speaker, it became clear within hours that he didn’t have enough support to win the job in a vote of the full House. No Democrat would vote for him, and the GOP majority is so thin that no Republican can win if just four fellow Republicans refuse to back him.

Following a Thursday afternoon meeting of Republicans hoping to break the deadlock and unite behind Scalise, Ronny Jackson of Texas, referencing the traditional sign that cardinals have agreed on a new pope, told reporters that “If you see smoke, it’s not a speaker, someone just set the place on fire.”

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