A New Speaker in the House

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    Representative Mike Johnson speaks after being chosen as the Republican nominee for Speaker of the House in Washington, D.C., on October 24, 2023. (AP/Jose Luis Magana)
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    House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, left, hands the gavel to Speaker-elect Representative Mike Johnson at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on October 25, 2023. (AP/Alex Brandon)
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After almost three weeks, the United States House of Representatives finally has a new Speaker.

Republicans unanimously elected Representative Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House on Wednesday.

After the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as Speaker, 15 congressmen competed for the position. By this week, House members were anxious to put the past weeks of tumult behind them. The Louisiana lawmaker was sworn into office, second in line to the presidency.

“The people’s House is back in business,” Johnson declared after taking the gavel.

Republicans control the House only 221-212 over Democrats. So Johnson needed nearly all of his party to support him in order to win. He won 220-209. A few members were absent for the vote.

Lawmakers quickly got back to work. They approved a resolution saying the House “stands with Israel” and “condemns Hamas’ brutal war.” Next, they turned to a stalled government funding bill.

Congress must pass funding legislation by a November 17 deadline. Otherwise, the federal government risks a shutdown in a matter of weeks. And President Joe Biden has asked Congress to provide $105 billion in aid to help Israel and Ukraine and to shore up the U.S. border with Mexico. Federal aviation and farming programs also face expiration without action.

Many hardline Republicans didn’t want to elect a Speaker who voted for the budget deal that McCarthy struck with President Biden earlier this year. It had set federal spending levels higher than most Republicans wanted. They push for bigger cuts to federal programs and services.

Addressing the House after his election, Johnson repeatedly invoked his Christian faith. He promised to quickly move forward on conservative priorities like border security. He said to the American people watching, “Our mission here is to serve you well and to restore the people’s faith in this House.”

A constitutional lawyer and former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, Johnson was first elected to the U.S. House in 2016. He is the first Louisianan to become Speaker.

After his election, Johnson told Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries that he looked forward to working with him.

“I know we see things from very different points of view,” Johnson said. “But I know that in your heart you love and care about this country, and you want to do what’s right. And so we’re going to find common ground there, alright?”

It remains to be seen how well Johnson will fare at uniting his party or in gaining trust from Democrats.

“Nobody hates him yet,” jokes Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky. “That’s his best asset.”