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Johnson secures GOP nomination for speaker

House to vote at noon Wednesday; lawmakers confident in Louisiana Republican's chances

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., a candidate for speaker of the House, speaks to reporters outside a House Republican Conference meeting on Tuesday.
Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., a candidate for speaker of the House, speaks to reporters outside a House Republican Conference meeting on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

House Republicans chose Rep. Mike Johnson to be their speaker-designate during a late-night GOP conference meeting Tuesday. And early indications were that on their fourth nominee after three weeks without a speaker, this time might really be the last.

After Johnson secured the nomination by secret ballot, a subsequent roll call vote on whether members would back the Louisiana Republican on the floor — where it really counts — went overwhelmingly in his favor. Not a single GOP lawmaker voted “no,” although there were multiple absences and a couple “present” votes.

Johnson is “the right guy at the right time,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, a key player in the House Freedom Caucus, said after the vote.

Johnson defeated Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., in the final round of voting for a nominee Tuesday night. Johnson received 128 votes, a clear but not overwhelming majority of the conference, to Donalds’ 29 votes.

But the bigger vote count went to one GOP lawmaker who wasn’t running for speaker, at least not anymore: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

The former speaker, who was ousted on Oct. 3, received 43 votes from members in the meeting, whose votes weren’t limited to those on the official ballot.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen outside a House Republican Conference speaker election meeting on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Conservatives who cheered McCarthy’s ouster reacted angrily Tuesday to reports his supporters were trying to get him the gavel back by voting for him even though he wasn’t running.

“This swampy scheme is not over,” Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Please take it seriously & make sure your Congressman knows you say absolutely not McCarthy as Speaker again.”

But the final roll call vote on affirmation of Johnson’s candidacy on the floor appeared to wipe away lingering doubts. After that vote, Republicans opened the doors to their meeting in the Longworth Building; reporters were greeted by members chanting “Mike! Mike!”

GOP lawmakers from across the political spectrum seemed to be falling in line behind Johnson.

They included Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., who represents a district President Joe Biden carried in 2020, and who led the opposition to House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who was the conference’s second nominee to replace McCarthy but couldn’t muster a majority vote last week.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who orchestrated McCarthy’s removal, and Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., who backed Gaetz’s motion, also said they would back Johnson.

The House will vote at noon Wednesday, Johnson said.

“Democracy is messy sometimes, but it is our system,” Johnson said at a post-vote press conference. “This conference you see, this House Republican majority, is united.”

Johnson was the last member standing after a group of six members tossed their names into the ring Tuesday upon Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s decision to drop out earlier in the day. Emmer, the third candidate in three weeks to secure the nomination, ran into opposition from former President Donald Trump, who appeared to sway more hard-liners in the conference against him.

After two rounds of voting Tuesday night, Rep. Mark E. Green, R-Tenn., dropped out of the race while Reps. Roger Williams, R-Texas, and Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., were eliminated after securing the fewest votes.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., leaves a House Republican Conference meeting on the election of a speaker on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Johnson maintained a healthy lead going into the final round, with 97 votes. Donalds was second with 31 votes; Green had 21 and Williams had 20. Thirty-four GOP members voted for an alternative candidate, while three members voted “present.”

Johnson received 85 votes on the first ballot. Donalds came in second with 32 votes; Green received 23 votes; Williams had 21; and Fleischmann had 10.

Other candidates received 31 votes in the first round, while two GOP lawmakers voted “present.”

Oklahoma Rep. Kevin Hern filed to run again on Tuesday, but dropped out of the race to endorse Johnson, who was the runner-up to Emmer in the day’s first election.

Herb Jackson and David Lerman contributed to this report.

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