WASHINGTON (WTNH) — After 22 days and three failed nominees, there’s a new Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-L.A.) received enough votes Wednesday to take the gavel. The 51-year-old replaces the ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-C.A.), who started in the role after a series of failed votes in January.
Johnson has been in the House since 2016 and is backed by former president Donald Trump. The Congressman has been criticized by Democrats, who say he is an architect of Trump’s legal effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Patricia Crouse, a practitioner in residence of political science and public administration at the University of New Haven, gave her insight into what’s next.
“If he comes in and all he pays attention to is that far right part of the Republican party, then the Democrats aren’t going to work with him at all,” she said. “He needs to do something. Yeah, you know, some sort of olive branch, whatever that may be. I do think he needs to do that, and the Democrats need to be willing to work with him, if he is willing to do that.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged the importance of now turning to passing a budget to avoid a government shutdown.
“We have a task to do, and we must make it bipartisan,” he said. “Pass a budget, make sure we avoid a government shutdown. Only bipartisanship can enable it to happen. And, I look forward to potentially working with him.”
Connecticut Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo called the decision as the Republican party “demonstrating its extremism at every level of government.”
“They have nominated right wing candidates across Connecticut, including at least one who participated in the January 6th insurrection,” she wrote in a statement. “Today, after churning through candidates for three weeks, Republicans in Congress elected a Speaker who led the fight to overturn the 2020 election; denies climate change; opposed same sex marriage and supports conversion therapy; supports a national abortion ban; would slash Medicare and Social Security. The list goes on.”
Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) applauded the decision to vote in a Speaker.
“I congratulate Mike Johnson- his speech seemed to set a new tone and offered a path forward, which Democrats have been calling for over the last three weeks,” Larson said in a written statement, adding that he wants to send funds to Israel, Ukraine and the border. “We stand ready to work with him, while we remain cautious of their intent to cut America’s legacy programs, like Social Security and Medicare. Democrats will always keep a hand out to work together, but will never let them, through secret studies or political maneuvering, cut America’s critical social safety net that is our #1 anti-poverty program for the elderly, and for children.”
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) also stressed the importance of sending financial aid to Israel and Ukraine in his own statement, writing that it “is blindingly obvious that we need a Speaker of the House who understands that a bipartisan approach is the only way a divided Congress can meet these challenges successfully.”
However, he wrote, that he was skeptical of “a bipartisan path forward for a basic level of communication and collaboration to achieve stability” as Congress faces another potential default.
“With the election of Speaker Mike Johnson, it is not clear that path will be followed,” he wrote. “I certainly reaffirm that the offer still stands. I hope as the serious mantle of his new role sinks in, he will understand that to be successful he must rise above polarized factionalism that has bedeviled the 118th Congress.”
Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn) said that while he’s “relieved” there is a Speaker, he’s “deeply concerned by Congressman Mike Johnson’s record of election denial and attacks on reproductive rights.”
“My top priority remains representing the people of Connecticut’s Fourth District,” Himes wrote in a statement. “Despite our ideological differences, I will continue working to find bipartisan compromise wherever it best serves my constituents’ interests.”
News 8 has reached out to state Republicans for comment.