By David W. Marshall
(Trice Edney Wire) – After three weeks of chaos, the Republicans got their man. In a party-line vote, Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana was finally elected speaker of the House, with Johnson receiving the votes of all 220 Republicans who cast a ballot while all 209 Democrats present voted for Hakeem Jeffries.
During his first speech as the 56th speaker of the House, Johnson vowed to “rebuild and restore” the trust of the American people, which he acknowledged had been damaged by the turmoil of recent weeks. “We want our allies around the world to know that this body of lawmakers is reporting again to our duty stations. Let the enemies of freedom around the world hear us loud and clear: The People’s House is back in business.”
As the American people listen to Johnson and all factions making up the House Republican caucus, it is obvious that the internal enemies to America’s freedom and democracy are a greater threat than those from around the world. As the House members report back to duty, it is not simply a House divided between Democrats and Republicans, but Republicans versus Republicans.
The negotiations and compromises by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy resulted in a bipartisan temporary funding bill, which ultimately passed with more Democratic than Republican votes. One small act of leadership and bipartisanship triggered a motion to remove McCarthy. Hard-right Republicans turned on McCarthy just as they had turned on Paul Ryan and John Boehner. Former Speaker Boehner was previously threatened with a motion to vacate but escaped the removal process.
Johnson was the party’s fourth nominee to replace the ousted McCarthy. The previous nominees, House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, Rep. Jim Jordan, and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, failed to unite a dysfunctional Republican caucus. The Republicans went as far as to blame the Democrats for failing to throw McCarthy a lifeline to save his job. While the predictions of a Republican red wave never materialized in the 2022 midterm election, the GOP still flipped the House, resulting in a small majority. Despite becoming the majority party in control, Republicans continue to show they remain the “party of no.” Seeing how the extreme factions of the party have taken control, few agents of unity remain within the GOP.
Therefore, is it realistic to believe that the new House speaker will have the ability to “restore and rebuild” trust after the American people witnessed how a bitterly divided GOP caucus used bullying tactics and death threats against their members over speaker votes? If there is no respect for their fellow GOP members when they disagree with each other, how can any responsible person lead this group while working in a bipartisan fashion with the Democrats when the circumstance of the nation calls for it?
With either their support or opposition to the advancement of critical legislation, the individual who holds the House speaker’s position has tremendous power that can impact the lives of every American. Therefore, any American who stands for democracy and against authoritarianism cannot trust Johnson, who, like Jordan, supported Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections. While some will passionately vote for the protection of the Second Amendment, the same degree of passion needs to be given to the Fourteenth Amendment.
A key element of the Fourteenth Amendment grants citizenship to all persons “born or naturalized in the United States,” including formerly enslaved people, and provides all citizens with “equal protection under the laws,” extending the provisions of the Bill of Rights to the states. The amendment authorized the government to punish states that abridged citizens’ right to vote by proportionally reducing their representation in Congress. It banned those who “engaged in insurrection” against the United States from holding any civil, military, or elected office without the approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate.
Donald Trump and his allies consistently promoted the idea of massive voter fraud and irregularities in big cities and counties with large populations of people of color. It is the votes of minority voters that Trump, Jordan, and Johnson sought to invalidate in cities such as Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia. Therefore, we cannot overlook the Fourteenth Amendment concerning the new speaker. Johnson had argued Biden’s win was bogus, and he appeared to pressure 125 House Republicans to join him in filing a brief to the Supreme Court supporting a Texas lawsuit to overturn Biden’s win in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He told them Donald Trump was watching.
To end this chaos, the Democrats must flip the House back to the Democrats and make Hakeem Jeffries the House speaker.
David W. Marshall is the founder of the faith-based organization TRB: The Reconciled Body and author of the book God Bless Our Divided America. He can be reached at www.davidwmarshallauthor.com