There Is an Eerie Calm in the House Ahead of Today's Speaker Vote

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

We are in Day 22 of there being no House Speaker, but for the first time since Matt Gaetz put forward his motion to defenestrate Kevin McCarthy from the Speaker's chair, the vibes, as the kids would say, feel immaculate.

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Late Tuesday night, House Republicans voted for Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana to be their next Speaker nominee. In the wake of that vote, there was no public dissension. There was no raging, highly critical post from Donald Trump on Truth Social. There was no talk of needing to bring in Patrick McHenry to fill an expanded role as Speaker Pro Tempore. There was a sense of unity among both the GOP conference and the loud voices on the Internet.

Even the morning insider newsletters betray the sense of calm coming out of D.C. From POLITICO's Playbook this morning:

It sure feels that way: Late last night, Rep. MIKE JOHNSON (R-La.) became the latest GOP conference nominee, and what was different this time wasn’t what was said but what wasn’t: No backbiting, no ultimatums, no snarky comments to reporters — just cheers and an overwhelming sense of relief.

Now, it’s not over yet. Three lawmakers voted “present” during a roll-call poll of the conference, and 22 GOP lawmakers were absent, so it’s possible there might be a decisive handful of “Never Mikes” hiding out there.

But the lack of vocal opposition and surfeit of genuine enthusiasm that was aired last night on opposing sides of the House GOP marked a significant shift after three weeks of chaos.

And from Punchbowl's morning newsletter:

We have a new GOP speaker nominee. The fourth in three weeks. And the second in just one day. But this time may be different.

Late Tuesday night, the House Republican Conference tapped Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) as its speaker designate. Johnson won with 128 votes in the secret-ballot election and had minimal opposition during a roll-call vote.

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The truth of the matter is that Republicans are very, very tired. They have spent three weeks being mad and frustrated and getting all sorts of calls from constituents and reporters, demanding to know when they're going to go back to work. A dysfunctional Washington, D.C., freaks voters out, even if the less they're doing means the less harm they're doing. But voters have enough uncertainty in their lives, what with the economy still in flux, crime on the rise, and the world being on fire. They don't like their system of government not working.

Johnson comes through several rounds of nominees and votes to emerge as the Speaker nominee of the Republican conference, and while he may not be known by most, he is an incredibly conservative Congressman and has been a longtime fighter for conservative causes since before his time in the U.S. House. In Louisiana, he is well-liked in his district, winning re-election unopposed in 2022.

One of the things that worked in Johnson's favor, however, is the fact that while he was once the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee, he is not a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Any affiliation with that group would likely have tanked his bid for Speaker, considering the strong feelings most of the more moderate wing has about Jim Jordan and how just about everyone seems to have about Matt Gaetz. Byron Donalds, also of the HFC, could not get further in his bid for Speaker due to that (as well as his relative inexperience).

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So Johnson ends up being an incredibly likable guy in the House among Republicans, with none of the baggage of being a tight member of McCarthy's inner circle or being with the "extreme" HFC. It works to his advantage, and it appears to be working toward the advantage of the House.

Remember back when McCarthy was going through his several rounds of votes for Speaker? Many of his concessions pulled the House as an institution toward the right. Conservatives on the Rules Committee, a commitment to proper appropriations bills, and other items that Rep. Chip Roy negotiated began as a way to make the House as an institution more conservative. If today plays out like many people hope, there is a good chance that the work of pulling the House to the right continues. 

The feeling coming out of D.C., though, is that the chaos may finally be at an end. Johnson is poised to become the Speaker, and barring any more agents of chaos, the House will have its most conservative Speaker in decades.

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