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After 22 days of paralysis, four nominees and multiple backroom brawls, Congress finally has a new House Speaker, electing a Donald Trump ally who backed the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Three weeks after Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the job, Republicans put aside their differences for long enough to appoint Louisiana lawyer Mike Johnson as his replacement.
Representative Mike Johnson speaks after he was chosen as the Republicans latest nominee for House speaker at a Republican caucus meeting at the Capitol in Washington.Credit: AP
The move ends an unprecedented period in Washington, in which Congress was unable to pass legislation, approve more funding for Israel or Ukraine, or provide Prime Minister Anthony Albanese a platform to give a joint address as part of his state visit this week.
But in a sign of more turmoil to come, the deeply divided House of Representatives now has only a few weeks to negotiate a deal to avoid a government shutdown that could force millions of Americans to lose pay or access to services when departments run out of money.
Johnson’s appointment came after Republican infighting resulted in three other nominees being blocked from becoming Speaker. In the weeks since McCarthy was ousted by a small group of rebels in his ranks, Majority House leader Steve Scalise, House Judiciary chairman Jim Jordan and Minnesota moderate Tom Emmett were all nominated to replace him, but each withdrew after they couldn’t find the 217 votes needed to become Speaker through a full vote on the floor of the House.
Things took a particularly nasty turn last week, when some of Jordan’s anonymous supporters began issuing death threats and vile messages to politicians who refused to support him.
“You’re gonna keep getting calls and emails – I’m putting all your information on the internet now,” said an anonymous caller to the wife of one Republican, in audio leaked to CNN. “You will not be left alone because of your f—— f—– husband. You’re going to be molested like you can’t ever imagine.”
Johnson, 51, is a relatively low profile Republican who benefited from having fewer party enemies than the other nominees. He also received the backing of Trump, who told reporters in New York on Wednesday: “I think he’s gonna be a fantastic Speaker… Everybody likes him.”
However, Democrats have hit out at the Louisiana Republican’s history, which includes opposing legislation to mandate recognition for marriage equality, being fiercely against access to abortion, and playing a key role in trying to overturn the 2020 election results.
Namely, he was the organiser of an amicus brief, or series of documents, backing a Texas-led lawsuit asking the Supreme Court to intervene in the vote counting in certain states Biden won.
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