By Alexandria Cullen
WASHINGTON – Arizona lawmakers voted on party lines Wednesday as the House elected a new speaker, ending three weeks of what one representative called “weeks of political paralysis and dysfunction” in Congress.
The 220-209 vote to elect Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., also ended three weeks of GOP division that began with the ouster of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was voted out by all Democrats and eight Republicans – including Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs of Gilbert and Eli Crane of Oro Valley.
But Biggs and Crane joined all other House Republicans to elect Johnson, who said “let’s get back to work” – just three weeks before the next potential government shutdown and with pressing demands for aid to Israel and Ukraine.
That was echoed by Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Tucson, who said in a statement after Wednesday’s vote that he and other members of the house are ready to “get back to work.”
“We have a lot of ground to make up and I’m confident we will get back to work immediately,” Ciscomani said. “With 270,000 illegal border crossings in September, American hostages trapped in Gaza, and 21 days until another government funding deadline, there is no time to waste. Let’s get back to work.”
But analysts said getting back to work and getting back to governing are two different things, after a bruising three weeks in which GOP infighting saw Republicans advance, and reject, three different potential speakers before Johnson. That included Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who failed in three floor votes last week as ever-growing numbers of his own party voted against him.
“Whether he (Johnson) can actually take the Republicans where they need to go as the speaker, you know, for the remainder of this term of Congress is a real question mark,” said Sean Noble, a political consultant of Compass Strategies in Arizona.
“I believe he’ll be given a chance by the conference, but he’s going to be under severe pressure almost immediately to try and deal with the issues,” Noble said.
For HighGround Inc. CEO Chuck Coughlin, “the proof is in the pudding.”
“Are we able to see, you know, an aid package for Ukraine?… For Israel? Are we going to see a debt, a budget negotiation on a continuing resolution to move forward?” Coughlin asked after Wednesday’s vote. “We will see how it all plays out.”
As they have in every speaker vote for the past three weeks, all Democrats present in the House voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y. It has become a habit for Democrats, who backed Jeffries through 15 rounds of voting in January as McCarthy struggled to win the speakership from his fractious conference.
Democrats had little positive to say about the Republicans’ most-recent candidate Wednesday. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, tweeted that “Mike Johnson is an extremist.”
“Cut from the same cloth as Donald Trump,” Grijalva said. “He’s unfit to be Speaker.”
Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix, said Republicans rejected an opportunity to work with Democrats on the speaker election.
“After more than three weeks of paralysis and dysfunction, House Republicans have rejected bipartisanship and are instead attempting to install an extremist election denier as second in line to the presidency,” Stanton said in a statement. “America can’t afford more MAGA extremism.”
But Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Bullhead City, said he is optimistic about the House with Johnson as speaker.
“I am pleased to have cast my vote in support of my good friend, Congressman Johnson,” Gosar said in a statement released by his office. “Speaker Johnson will govern alongside House conservatives to pursue an agenda that includes funding the government through the individual appropriation bills.”
Noble sees the chances of a government shutdown becoming more and more likely.
“I think there is a stronger likelihood that it will” shut down, Noble said. “I also believe that we’re going to end up spending more money under this speaker than we would have under McCarthy.”
Coughlin said a long-term solution is needed for a government that is “not working.”
“The system is broken, and until we figure out how we want to change the incentives of our election system, this is the kind of stuff we’re going to end up with,” Coughlin said.