U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.)

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) (L) shakes hands with Rep. Andy Barr (R-Ky.) as the House of Representatives holds an election for a new speaker at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on October 25, 2023.

(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House Speaker Mike Johnson Proves 'MAGA Is Ascendant,' Declares Matt Gaetz

The Louisiana congressman has been called "the most important architect" of a scheme inside the House to provide cover for Republicans trying to overturn the election results of 2020.

After three failed nominees in as many weeks, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday elected Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson as speaker—a signal of the far-right's hold on the party.

The 220-209 vote along party lines came after Reps. Tom Emmer (D-Minn.), Steve Scalise (R-La.), and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) abandoned their speakership bids in the wake of a few far-right Republicans voting with Democrats earlier this month to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), whose January election took 15 rounds of voting and required concessions to the far-right.

"MAGA is ascendant," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla) declared this week, referring to the "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan of former President Donald Trump, who is Republicans' 2024 presidential front-runner, despite his ongoing criminal cases.

"If you don't think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you're not paying attention," added Gaetz. He was speaking with Steve Bannon, Trump's former chief strategist, who last year was found guilty of contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the U.S. House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

Some objections to Johnson, vice chair of the House Republican Conference, relate to the January 6, 2021 insurrection, incited by Trump and his "Big Lie" allies as Congress was certifying Joe Biden's 2020 win.

"Today is a dark day for American democracy," Stand Up America founder and president Sean Eldridge said Wednesday following the vote. "Mike Johnson's record of election denial and his attempts to overturn the will of the people make him totally unfit to be second in line to the presidency. Those who have spent years trying to undermine our democracy cannot be trusted to lead it."

"Entrusting the House of Representatives to a man The New York Times called 'the most important architect of the Electoral College objections' is proof of House Republicans' contempt for our freedom to vote," Eldridge added. "The American people deserve a speaker who will stand up for our democracy and our fundamental freedoms, but sadly, House Republicans have embraced MAGA extremism instead."

Reporting earlier this month on the 139 House Republicans who voted to dispute the Electoral College count in 2021, the Times explained:

While most House Republicans had amplified Mr. Trump's claims about the election in the aftermath of his loss, only the right flank of the caucus continued to loudly echo Mr. Trump's fraud allegations in the days before January 6, the Times found. More Republican lawmakers appeared to seek a way to placate Mr. Trump and his supporters without formally endorsing his extraordinary allegations. In formal statements justifying their votes, about three-quarters relied on the arguments of a low-profile Louisiana congressman, Rep. Mike Johnson, the most important architect of the Electoral College objections.

On the eve of the January 6 votes, he presented colleagues with what he called a "third option." He faulted the way some states had changed voting procedures during the pandemic, saying it was unconstitutional, without supporting the outlandish claims of Mr. Trump's most vocal supporters. His Republican critics called it a Trojan horse that allowed lawmakers to vote with the president while hiding behind a more defensible case.

Patriotic Millionaires chair Morris Pearl, who also noted the Times' reporting on Wednesday, said, "That Republicans would elevate Mike Johnson to the speakership is as reprehensible as it is predictable."

"His actions leading up to January 6th were disqualifying: He has no business in elected office, let alone wielding the speaker's gavel," Pearl added. "Sadly, this is of no concern for the modern GOP, which is contemptuous of the basic tenets of democracy. His election as speaker is a damning statement on our politics and a blight on the institution of the House of Representatives."

Advocates of reproductive freedom, climate action, and protecting programs like Social Security also opposed Johnson.

"Johnson has a long history of hostility towards Social Security and Medicare," noted Social Security Works executive director Alex Lawson. "Multimillionaire Johnson has also made the outrageous claim that forced births are necessary to fund Social Security."

Food & Water Action deputy director Mitch Jones warned in a statement Wednesday that "Speaker Johnson, an egregious climate skeptic and proud election denier, has had his career bought and paid for by the oil and gas industry. Johnson's shameful anti-truth, anti-science views are a clear and present danger to America's public health and environment.

NextGen America similarly said on social media that "from denying the results of the 2020 election to supporting a national abortion ban, it's clear: He's a threat to our future and democracy. Yeah, we're just as horrified as you are."

Public Citizen executive vice president Lisa Gilbert asserted that "Mike Johnson's claim to fame is leading the charge to deny President Biden's certification and attempting to overturn a democratic election."

"A year out from the next presidential election," she added, "House Republicans have made their contempt for democracy and their intent to lean into full-on election denialism crystal clear."

This post has been updated with comment from Patriotic Millionaires.

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