In the first part of our article, we wrote that by mid-fall, the election for Speaker of the House of Representatives was deadlocked, and on October 19, Jim Jordan informally withdrew from the race for the post. He did not pursue a third round of voting, realizing that he had no chance of winning with the Republican establishment rigidly rejected Jordan, and did not allow the isolationist to become the head of the House of Representatives. Before his decision, Jordan supported a plan to give interim Speaker Patrick McHenry special powers, who, in the event of further vacuum and uncertainty, would be able to lead Congress and pass necessary legislation until January. His first decision was to vote on the $100 billion military budget the White House wants to spend on Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and securing the U.S. southern border. At the same time, Republicans have a window of opportunity until January to sort out the nomination of an already permanent Speaker. The race for the post was back to the starting line, and it was clear that there would be many candidates. After Jordan’s departure, Michigan Congressman Jack Bergman immediately stood out among them. He’s a retired U.S. Marine general who served in Germany, and at the time of the crisis, Bergman served on the leadership of the Congressional Armed Services Committee. In 2020, he supported efforts to challenge the outcome of the election, which could allow him to win Trump’s endorsement. Bergman represented the Republican militarist wing rather than the isolationist wing, although he often voted against tranches to Ukraine, prioritizing confrontation with China. A candidate like the retired general might have seemed a more winnable figure to Republicans amid wars and instability than the isolationist Jordan.
On October 20, another attempt to elect the Speaker of Congress ended in failure. Jim Jordan, who for a day was ready to withdraw from the struggle for the post of Speaker, under pressure from right-wing fellow party members, continued the struggle, which again failed. That time, 13 Republicans turned out against Jordan, slightly fewer than in previous attempts, but still a lot to get a positive total. Based on the math of congressional seat allocation, Jordan or any other Republican candidate can’t lose more than 4-5 votes of their fellow party members, and knowing that this number was higher, it made the election almost useless. Obviously, not everyone was ready to see the isolationist Jordan as the third in the U.S. state hierarchy against the backdrop of two indirect conflicts being waged by Washington. Jordan may well have continued to stubbornly pursue new rounds of voting, but the apparatus crisis in any case threatened to drag on not just for a long time, but for months. By then, Congress had been without a Speaker for almost three weeks, and all legislative work was frozen. Therefore, it was not surprising, that there were more and more votes to give interim Speaker Patrick McHenry special powers until January and to pass all budgets during that time. However, many Republicans flatly refused to form a “coalition government” with Democrats. At that very moment, the White House asked Congress for 100 billion dollars, of which 60 billion dollars would go to fund Ukraine, but there was no clarity on the Speaker, which created additional nervousness.
On October 25, after long battles and five rounds of voting, the Republicans nominated another figure for the post of Speaker. It was Tom Emmer, a representative of the establishment and the third in the Republican hierarchy in Congress, although beforehand his position looked not promising. Emmer has also a very complicated relationship with Trump because in 2020 he voted to recognize Biden as the winner of the election. Plus, Emmer pressured Republicans in the 2022 election by promising money in exchange for distancing himself from Trump. Not surprisingly, Trump immediately urged congressmen not to vote for Emmer, calling the latter a RINO, a « Republican Im Name Only ». This could have been fatal for Emmer, because if even 5-10 Trump supporters refused to vote for him, he could not become Speaker. If that happened, Republicans would be back to square one, and would once again be looking for a compromise figure for Speaker. Another option at the time was to give additional powers to interim Speaker Patrick McHenry, but right-wing Republicans were not interested in this option and were ready to block the decision. Emmer voted for all the tranches to Ukraine, so such a candidate would suit both the “moderates” and militarists in both parties, as well as the White House. Nevertheless, it was also clear that if he was defeated in the elections, the right-wing Republicans would retake the initiative by nominating an isolationist from their ranks.
At some point, it seemed that a remake of the famous film Groundhog Day was being filmed in Congress. Thus, Tom Emmer, a representative of the Republican establishment, spent only a couple of hours as a candidate for Speaker, and immediately gave up, realizing that he would definitely not get enough votes in his support. The new candidate was Mike Johnson, a Louisiana congressman, and as expected, he is on the Republican right because he supported Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results. In addition, Johnson has consistently voted against any tranches to Ukraine since May 2022, demanding that they first take care of internal crises in the United States like the migration one. It was obvious that with him at the helm it would be much more difficult for Kyiv to agree on large tranches, so the establishment was trying to “sink” his candidacy, as it had already happened with Jim Jordan. By that time, the entire budget process had been frozen for almost a month, and the Pentagon got involved, suddenly admitting that 24 soldiers had been injured during a dozen strikes on U.S. bases in the Middle East. This was clear pressure on Congress and a call to quickly agree on the allocation of tranches, if there was a delay in the provision of which, the situation, according to the military, could get out of control and lead to new losses and defeats. The hasty evacuation of Americans from the Middle East has already been discussed, which also required separate funding. They also demanded that Congress approve the supply of new Iron Dome installations to Israel.
At last on October 25, the chaos in Congress finally came to an end and the Republicans approved a new Speaker, one hundred Mike Johnson, who received 220 votes in his support, which was barely enough for him to win. Johnson is vice chairman of the Congressional Republican Freedom Caucus and has held important positions on the Judiciary and Armed Services committees. But most importantly, he is a representative of the right wing of the Republicans, and in 2020 Johnson actively helped Trump challenge the election results, which influenced the ex-president’s support for his candidacy. At the beginning of the Ukrainian conflict, the newly appointed Speaker supported the law on lend-lease to Kyiv, but since May 2022 Johnson has consistently voted against any tranches to Ukraine. Before the election of Speaker, he outlined his priorities, which included resolving the migration crisis, the stalemate with drug addiction, from which 100 000 Americans die every year, and the fight against crime. First of all, Congress, under the patronage of Johnson, was going to pass a resolution in support of Israel, but then long and bitter negotiations would begin on a new budget, which must be adopted by mid-November, otherwise America would face another shutdown. The situation also became clear that it will now be difficult to agree on a 106 billion dollar military budget, of which 60 is intended for Ukraine. A certain budget would eventually be adopted, because the Republicans would not leave Israel without help, but Ukraine would most likely receive much less money than Biden asked for.
As expected, Congress, under the leadership of new Speaker Mike Johnson, passed a symbolic resolution in support of Israel from the very beginning, and only the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, accusing Israel of genocide and war crimes, voted against it. Democrats were outraged by the Speaker’s election, calling him a “far-right extremist”. Johnson, in particular, is promoting legislation to cut off federal funding to all schools that teach gender rules, and also advocates a complete ban on “gender reassignment” operations on children. In Congress, with the advent of a new Speaker, the investigation into corruption of the Biden family in Ukraine has also intensified. Diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic are still scratching their heads over how to work with the new Speaker of Congress. Almost none of the influential diplomats or major lobbyists really know Mike Johnson, and now he has suddenly taken the third position in the U.S. government hierarchy. For example, in the shadow ministerial cabinet of British Labor, which may come to power next year, they didn’t even hear about Johnson until the last moment, and representatives of Rishi Sunak’s cabinet knew about Johnson, but had no contact with him. The Irish government even went looking for Johnson’s Wikipedia page to understand who they were dealing with. Previously, Johnson mainly focused on the domestic American agenda with fighting abortion and transgender people, but he, as many Republicans, is an anti-Chinese activist, and proposed a law banning lobbying for the interests of communist countries, which formally includes China. As we wrote above, in the context of Ukraine, the newly appointed speaker has consistently voted against tranches to Kyiv since May 2022, and the right wing of the Republicans is already immediately blackmailing Johnson, demanding not to adopt a joint budget for Ukraine and Israel. Otherwise, they threaten to overthrow Johnson and again plunge Congress into a state of chaos, so Ukrainian lobbyists and European bureaucrats, who may bear the cost of paying for the Ukrainian war, should now feel especially alarmed. However, this topic, like Johnson’s current activities in Congress, is a completely different story. The main conclusion from the drama with the election of the Speaker of the House of Representatives is that the political and mental split in American society is taking on more and more obvious forms, resulting in public confrontation in the once elite spheres of U.S. power. Once upon a time, a compromise could always be found there, ignoring the opinion of the broad masses, and even this time, with the help of shadow agreements, chaos has been avoided, there seems to be no guarantee that this will not happen again in an even harsher form.