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McCarthy Ouster Backfires on Dems: Mike Johnson Takes the Gavel

They laughed at Republican disarray, but Democrats might rue the day.

House Republicans solved their 22-day-old conundrum on Oct. 25 by unanimously supporting Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson for speaker. With a few absences in the lower chamber, the final tally gave Johnson 220 votes, with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) picking up 209 votes from his fellow Democrats. All in all, it was an interesting turn of events. After Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was voted out of the speaker’s chair three weeks earlier, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was nominated to replace him but didn’t even make it to a vote in the full House. Then, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) stepped up but failed to get enough GOP support in three attempts. Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) was speaker-designate for less than a day, and then suddenly Johnson, a relative newcomer to Congress, found himself in the spotlight. He needed just a single round of voting on the House floor, and Republicans no doubt breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Johnson’s ascension is noteworthy because, as Liberty Nation’s Tim Donner points out, he has not yet chaired any House committees. That is usually a part of the rite of passage for any member aspiring to become speaker. But this struggle to replace an ousted speaker was extraordinary in the literal sense, so it seemed fitting that the issue would be resolved with an extraordinary selection.

They’re Coming for Mike Johnson Already

Mike Johnson was first elected to Congress in 2016 and represents Louisiana’s solid-red Fourth Congressional District, which encompasses the lawmaker’s hometown of Shreveport. He has an amiable style, but he’s no moderate. Already, Democrats and the left-wing establishment media are practically using their famous “worse than Hitler” trope to describe his ideology. The White House has already dubbed him a “MAGA Republican” – which, on the left, is code for “extremist” – and “a leading 2020 election denier.” Certainly, it is true that Johnson, a constitutional lawyer, did make the case that those states that changed their election laws in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic did so unconstitutionally and so their Electoral College votes should have been rejected.

GettyImages-1692791085 Ilhan Omar

Ilhan Omar (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) took a break from her anti-Semitic rhetoric to label Johnson a “MAGA extremist.” And even before the House voted, Jeffries on CNN said of Johnson, “I don’t know Mike Johnson well. Based on his track record, he appears to be an extreme right-wing ideologue.”

The Republican conference in the House of Representatives has been lambasted as chaotic, and to an extent it deserves some of the criticism. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Democrats contributed to this entire speakership debacle, and in the end it has backfired on them.

When Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) led the revolt against McCarthy’s speakership, Democrats could have chosen to vote for him. Had they done so – even just eight or nine of them – the House wouldn’t have been paralyzed. McCarthy was more open to compromising with Democrats to get bills passed than Mike Johnson is likely to be. Though the latter has pledged to work with the minority when possible, working with them is not the same thing as giving them what they want. Johnson is certainly further to the right than McCarthy. Democrats helped to get rid of a speaker from whom they could have wrung concessions, and now they will be dealing with a replacement who is much further away ideologically.

Additionally, Jeffries, himself an election denier, now claims the mantle of the only Democrat in the history of the party to lose a floor vote for Speaker of the House 19 times. Not that this rather amusing fact is of any import, but still. It took McCarthy 15 rounds of voting to secure the gavel in January 2023, then there were three rounds of voting for Jordan and one for Johnson. Jeffries came in second on every occasion. Perhaps the Democrat leader should have asked a few members of his caucus to back McCarthy, foil the eight Republicans who wanted to be rid of him, and keep in place a speaker who would no doubt have thrown Democrats some bones.

Instead, the chamber will now be led by a Republican who stands for just about everything Democrats despise: Speaker of the House Mike Johnson of the great state of Louisiana. As for House Republicans, it is past time they persuaded the American people they can, at the very least, mitigate the damage done to the cultural and economic well-being of the nation by the current administration.

Read More From Graham J Noble

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