Louisiana Republican Rep. Mike Johnson was elected speaker of the House Wednesday by a vote of 220-209, after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy allegedly tried to sabotage the proceedings.
Johnson, a soft-spoken conservative, was elected to Congress in the 2016 election and serves on the House Judiciary and Armed Services Committees. After moderate Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) dropped out of the race on Tuesday, the tide quickly turned toward the Louisiana congressman.
On Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast, Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) detailed how it happened, and how McCarthy tried to torpedo Johnson’s bid so he could return to the speakership.
Gaetz said that after Emmer bowed out, freshman Rep. Marc Molinaro (R-N.Y.) “stood up at the microphone and said, ‘instead of restarting this whole process, and having a candidate forum, and sending everyone home for a good cry, let’s just take a non-binding poll on where people would be on the person who came in second.'”
That person was, of course, Johnson.
Gaetz said that Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) objected to the idea, saying it was against House rules.
“And brilliantly, Marc Molinaro says, ‘then I move for unanimous consent that the rules be waved and we take a poll on whether or not Mike Johnson could be our speaker nominee,” Gaetz continued. “And guess who objects to that unanimous consent request?—Kevin McCarthy!”
Gaetz told Bannon that this was a strong indication that McCarthy had worked behind the scenes to “knife” previous House speaker nominees Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
“It was McCarthy working to knife everyone and he hadn’t yet figured out a way to knife Mike Johnson,” the Florida Republican explained. “He was worried there was going to be a great unifying moment, and he scuttled the unifying moment.”
After throwing a wrench into the proceedings, McCarthy tried to “set up a play to block Johnson with write-in votes” for himself during the intraconference process, Gaetz explained.
“They were promising people hearings on their favorite legislation, passage of bills, I heard people promised, ‘oh maybe you’ll get a chairmanship,’ and the play was for McCarthy to return as speaker and then Jim Jordan to be the deputy speaker,” Gaetz continued. “And that would have been debasing to Jordan, someone I like a great deal, and it would have been empowering to McCarthy.”
Gaetz told Bannon that McCarthy’s backers predicted that the former speaker would garner at least 100 write-in votes on the secret ballot.
“You know how many there were? Thirty-three,” he said. “So they flame-out terribly and Mike Johnson’s gaining momentum.” McCarthy was ultimately able to get 43 write in votes on a secret ballot.
Johnson then called for the House to hold a rollcall vote, so the 43 McCarthy voters “would have to announce themselves as voting for a candidate who wasn’t even running versus a unifying force like Mike Johnson,” Gaetz explained. “On the rollcall, do you know how many people voted for Kevin McCarthy?—Zero.”
“So he went from promising 100 votes to delivering 43 to zero willing to vote for him and everyone in the room knew at that moment that I wasn’t the force for chaos, I wasn’t causing disunity,” Gaetz continued. “For the last three weeks, the reason the House of Representatives has been paralyzed is because for his own selfish gain, Kevin McCarthy was sabotaging the candidacy of anyone else because he was plotting a return.”
“We stopped it, and in the place of Kevin McCarthy, we get Bayou Louisiana Mike Johnson, a brilliant constitutional attorney,” Gaetz declared.