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Candidate favoured by Trump is elected House speaker ending US political chaos

Republicans stand and applaud Mike Johnson during the election for speaker of the House (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Republicans stand and applaud Mike Johnson during the election for speaker of the House (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Republicans stand and applaud Mike Johnson during the election for speaker of the House (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Republicans eagerly elected Republican Mike Johnson as House speaker on Wednesday, elevating a deeply conservative but lesser-known leader to the seat of US power and ending for now the political chaos in their majority.

Mr Johnson of Louisiana swept on the first ballot with support from all Republicans anxious to put the past weeks of tumult behind and get on with the business of governing.

A lower-ranked member of the House GOP leadership team, Mr Johnson emerged as the fourth Republican nominee in what has become an almost absurd cycle of political infighting since Kevin McCarthy’s ousting as GOP factions jockey for power.

While not the party’s top choice for the gavel, the deeply religious and even-keeled Johnson has few foes and an important GOP backer: Donald Trump.

Congress Speaker
Congress Speaker Republicans stand and applaud Mike Johnson during the election for speaker of the House (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“I think he’s gonna be a fantastic speaker,” Mr Trump said on Wednesday at the New York courthouse where the former president, who is now the Republican front-runner for president in 2024, is on trial over a lawsuit alleging business fraud.

Trump said he had not heard “one negative comment about him. Everybody likes him”.

Three weeks on without a House speaker, the Republicans have been wasting their majority status — a maddening embarrassment to some, democracy in action to others, but not at all how the House is expected to function.

Far-right members have refused to accept a more traditional speaker, and moderate conservatives do not want a hard-liner.

While Mr Johnson had no opponents during the private roll call late on Tuesday, some two dozen Republicans did not vote, more than enough to sink his nomination.

But when GOP conference chair Elise Stefanik rose to introduce Mr Johnson’s name on Wednesday as their nominee, Republicans jumped to their feet for an extended standing ovation.

“House Republicans and Speaker Mike Johnson will never give up,” she said.

Democrats again nominated their leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, criticising Johnson as an architect of Mr Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election he lost.

With Republicans controlling the House only 221-212 over Democrats, Johnson can afford just a few detractors to win the gavel.

Deeply religious, Johnson is affable and well liked, with a fiery belief system. Colleagues swiftly started giving their support.

“Democracy is messy sometimes, but it is our system,” Mr Johnson said after winning the nomination. “We’re going to restore your trust in what we do here.”