Republicans in the United States have nominated Mike Johnson as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, hours after their previous choice withdrew amid party infighting that has paralysed political decision-making in the country for more than three weeks.
Johnson, who is from the southern state of Louisiana, is the fourth Republican to win the party’s nomination for the speaker’s chair, which has been vacant since a far-right faction of party rebels removed Kevin McCarthy on October 3.
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The disarray has left US lawmakers unable to respond to the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, or take steps to head off a looming government shutdown on November 18.
Johnson secured the nomination hours after Tom Emmer, the third most senior Republican in the House, withdrew because of opposition from party hardliners.
It was not clear whether Johnson, a constitutional lawyer who has billed himself as a bridge builder, would be able to overcome those divisions.
Nominees need to secure 217 votes to become speaker. The high threshold and the Republican party’s slim 221-212 majority over the Democrats means that candidates cannot afford to lose votes. It is unusual in US politics for an opposition party to vote for the rival party’s nominee for speaker.
During private balloting, Johnson won a majority, with an expected House floor vote on Wednesday.
“Mike! Mike! Mike!” lawmakers chanted at a press conference after his nomination, surrounding Johnson and posing for selfies in a show of support.
“He knows everybody very well, does a great job with bringing people to the floor, talking about our policies, and that’s what we need right now,” said Republican Representative Kevin Hern, who withdrew his own bid to support Johnson.
Some 14 Republicans have put their names forward for speaker since McCarthy’s departure,
Emmer dropped his bid after former President Donald Trump urged Republicans to oppose him. Unlike many of his party colleagues, Emmer voted to certify Democratic President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over Trump following the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters.
Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, earlier backed Jim Jordan for speaker, but Republicans abandoned that attempt last week after Jordan lost three floor votes.
Before that, it was Steve Scalise. The No 2 House Republican, Steve Scalise dropped out when he was unable to line up enough votes to win the job.
Democrats have said they are open to a compromise candidate who would allow the chamber to function. Many Republicans have said on principle that they would not back somebody who had support from the opposition party.
“We must pursue a bipartisan path forward and reopen the House,” top House Democrat Hakeem Jeffries said on social media.
The uncertainty has also helped to push up the US government’s borrowing costs. The government posted a record $1.7 trillion deficit for the most recent fiscal year, in part due to higher interest payments.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies