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Wisconsin Republicans praise election of new House speaker

Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson takes helm of US House of Representatives after weeks of party infighting

House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York hands the gavel to Republican speaker-elect Mike Johnson of Louisiana at the Capitol in Washington.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of N.Y., hands the gavel to speaker-elect Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Republican members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation lauded the election of Louisiana U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday, while the state’s Democratic lawmakers criticized Johnson for his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Johnson’s election followed weeks of infighting in Congress and multiple failed speaker votes. All Wisconsin Republicans, other than U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden, voted for Johnson. Van Orden, who is currently in Israel on what he’s described as a fact-finding mission, was one of just four lawmakers who did not participate in the vote.

In a statement, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Fitzgerald of Clyman noted “it’s been a tough few weeks of building consensus” within the GOP, but he’s “proud of the candidate our conference has coalesced behind.”

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“Speaker Johnson is an honest Member of Congress who not only has strong conservative values but lives those values out through his work,” said Fitzgerald. “I’ve gotten to know Speaker Johnson through working together on the Judiciary Committee, and I couldn’t be happier to have him at the helm. I look forward to getting back to work and passing conservative policy priorities under his leadership.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany of Minoqua offered his congratulations with a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, saying he’s seen Johnson’s dedication to protecting constitutional rights while serving on the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.

“He is the conservative fighter the American people need to change Washington’s status quo,” Tiffany said.

Like other Republicans, Johnson wasn’t Tiffany’s first choice. Just one week earlier, Wisconsin’s Republican U.S. House delegation supported U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. After multiple failed votes by House Republicans, Jordan ultimately withdrew from the speaker race.

While Johnson was able to unify a fractured Republican caucus nationally, his election drew scorn from Democrats and liberal groups who called him a leading denier of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over former President Donald Trump. That year, Johnson collected signatures for a legal brief supporting a Texas lawsuit that aimed to toss results from battleground states including Wisconsin.

“House Democrats stand united to keep MAGA extremism from creating more disorder and Chaos,” said U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee in a post to X. Moore said Republicans “made the choice to side with MAGA extremism & a Speaker who has the former President (Donald Trump) on speed dial.”

While it remains to be seen how Johnson’s election might factor into House elections next year, Democratic campaign groups immediately seized on the vote.

A statement from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which has been targeting Van Orden and Republican U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil ahead of the 2024 election, called Johnson “Jim Jordan with a sports coat.” The group accused Van Orden and Steil of “siding with election deniers, anti-abortion extremists, and relentless attacks on Social Security and Medicare.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan of Madison took to X to knock Van Orden for missing the vote.

“Hard to believe but @derrickvanorden is STILL not in Washington DC doing his job,” Pocan wrote.

While Van Orden missed the vote, he made clear that he supported the new speaker on social media, calling Johnson a “solid dude.”

Steil called Johnson a friend and said he’s proud that he’ll lead House Republicans moving forward.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to work to secure the southern border, stop wasteful spending, and stand by our ally Israel,” Steil said.

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