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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - WASHINGTON —Mike Johnson has been elected Speaker of the House of Representatives, ending weeks of chaos and Republican infighting on Capitol Hill.
The conservative Louisiana lawmaker won with 220 votes in the lower chamber of Congress.
Johnson is the fourth Republican nominated for the position since Kevin McCarthy’s ouster on Oct. 3.
The previous nominee, Minnesota’s Tom Emmer, abruptly dropped out of the race on Tuesday after about four hours.
Johnson’s success in the hard-fought Speaker battle represents a victory for the ideologically right-wing, Trump-aligned faction of the Republican Party and a loss for its moderates, whose candidates struggled to gain traction among conservative representatives on Capitol Hill.
Addressing the House after the vote, Johnson, 51, said that the last-minute negotiations meant that his wife was unable get a flight to Washington in time for his installation as Speaker.
“She’s a little worn out, we all are,” he said.
He mentioned border security, inflation and the conflict in the Middle East as some of his main priorities as Speaker.
“The challenge before us is great, but the time for action is now, and I will not let you down,” Johnson said. “We know that there’s a lot going on in our country, domestically and abroad, and we are ready to get to work again to solve those problems.”
Johnson promised that the first bill he would introduce would be in support of Israel, one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement.
“We are overdue in getting that done,” he said.
Speaking on the Capitol steps after he was sworn in, Johnson vowed to “aggressive” schedule now that the House is “back in business”.
Still, there are other political storms brewing in both the closely divided House and in the Republican party that could slow down the pace.
The House now faces a deadline of Nov. 17 to come to an agreement to continue funding the US government, or face a shutdown.
McCarthy made the deal to extend the budget deadline for six weeks, and then faced the wrath of angry hardliners in the Republican Party who orchestrated his ouster.
Following Johnson’s election, several representatives singled out the budget issue as the most pressing facing the House in the near-future.
“We need to not waste any time,” New York Republican Anthony D’Esposito said of the issue. “What we’ve done the last few days is not work.”
Johnson also takes a staunchly conservative position on a number of policy issues, including abortion rights and same-sex marriage, which he opposes, that could make it difficult to reach across the aisle.
Like many in the right wing of his party, Johnson is against further US aid to Ukraine, as well. His views have sparked alarm among some Democrats.
One, California’s Adam Schiff, told reporters that he sees Johnson as “one of the very determined ideologues” who is “not among the Republicans who are much more open to working together on a variety of issues”.
In a statement, the Congressional Equality Caucus, made up of openly LGBT representatives, described Johnson as someone with a “demonstrated career attacking LGBTQI+ people across the country”.
By electing him Speaker, “his supporters have signaled they want these attacks against our community to continue”, Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan said in the statement.
The Democratic leader in the House, Hakeem Jeffries, also spoke on Wednesday, before ceremonially handing Johnson the large Speaker’s gavel.
Jeffries rebuked his fellow members who rejected the outcome of the 2020 president election — all Republicans, including Johnson — but said his party “will find bipartisan common ground with our Republican colleagues whenever and wherever possible”.
“The time for gamesmanship is over, the game for brinkmanship is over, the time for partisanship is over,” Jeffries said. “It’s time to get back to doing the business of the American people.”
In 2020, Johnson was a key figure in efforts to legally contest the results of the 2020 presidential election, urging Trump to “keep fighting” and “exhaust every available legal remedy”.
The mild-mannered former lawyer and talk radio host has served in the House since 2016 and is a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a position that is often seen as a first step toward leadership positions within the party.
When nominating Johnson on the floor of the House, Elise Stefanik, the chair of the Republican conference, called him a “dedicated servant” and “titan” who has dedicated his life to “America’s great principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.
But Democrat Pete Aguilar called him “the most important architect of electoral college objections” to the 2020 presidential vote and said he was chosen because he “can appease Donald Trump”. — BBC
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