Meet Cheryl Johnson, the clerk accountable for a divided Home


Just a little after 6 p.m. Japanese time Thursday, after a historic three days and 10 rounds of making an attempt — and failing — to elect the following Speaker of the Home, Clerk Cheryl Johnson’s grace beneath strain was the one factor a divided chamber may agree on.

As French Hill (R-Ark.) stood as much as nominate Republican chief Kevin McCarthy for an eleventh time, he stopped to thank Johnson, who was standing the place she had been for a lot of the final week: On the middle of the dais, her gavel to her proper, making an attempt to keep up order amongst a Home in disarray.

“Let me categorical my deep appreciation, and appreciation of everyone on this room, for the work you’re doing Madam Clerk,” stated Hill.

In a uncommon present of unity, the chamber — greater than 430 members-elect of the Home — rose to present Johnson a standing ovation.

Whereas no speaker presides over the U.S. Home of Representatives, the clerk is in cost. Here is what the historic position entails. (Video: Hadley Inexperienced/The Washington Submit)

The primary Home clerk was elected in 1789, and within the 234 years since, it has been a little-acknowledged position. However amid a uniquely dysfunctional speaker election, Johnson attained the very best profile of any Home clerk in U.S. historical past, as a as soon as unremarkable political course of turned political theater in probably the most literal sense of the phrase. You didn’t should be a political wonk to tune in, you simply needed to have a nostril for drama.

And standing entrance and middle in all that politicking, posturing and speechifying, was Johnson. Earlier than California Republican Kevin McCarthy was lastly elected as Home Speaker early Saturday morning, Johnson was the de facto chief of the proceedings; the one guidelines those she set. For these watching from their dwelling or workplace, Johnson minimize a powerful determine: all the time in an impeccable jacket; her hair, the colour of burnished copper, with not a strand misplaced; firmly however politely imploring the room, “For what objective does the gentlewoman” — or gentleman — “rise?”

All through the week, lawmakers sang her praises on social media.

“At all times so impressed by the nice poise & judgment proven by my constituent U.S. Home Clerk Cheryl Johnson, whose 2 a long time of service in Congress have ready her to be our presiding officer on this troublesome second,” tweeted Maryland Democrat Jamie Raskin (Johnson lives in Chevy Chase, Md.).

“Cheryl Johnson, the clerk of the Home, for Speaker? She’s been extraordinary with none guidelines handed and in having some sense of equity and order,” Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) tweeted on Thursday.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime position that nobody, a minimum of for 100 years, has needed to fill. And she or he crammed it with such grace, competence and confidence,” D.C. congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton informed The Washington Submit on Friday afternoon.

“She was engaged on empty with none course in any way. She needed to make it up as she went alongside,” Holmes Norton stated. “There isn’t any dwelling precedent for easy methods to proceed with no speaker within the chair.”

What happens if there’s no House speaker? These things can’t get done.

Usually, the position of Home clerk consists of vital however mundane administrative duties beneath course of the speaker, reminiscent of delivering messages to the U.S. Senate or certifying the passage of all Home payments and resolutions.

A New Orleans native with a regulation diploma from Howard College, Johnson spent practically 20 years within the Home, the place she served as a director and coverage adviser on numerous committees. She then spent 10 years on the Smithsonian Establishment, the place she was the director of its workplace of presidency relations, earlier than changing into the thirty sixth Home clerk in 2019. She is considered one of 4 girls to function clerk, and the second Black individual to take action.

Home Clerk Cheryl L. Johnson obtained a standing ovation for her work following a tenth undecided vote for Home speaker on Jan. 5. (Video: The Washington Submit)

First sworn in by then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Johnson has served as clerk in extraordinary occasions.

She served in the course of the Jan. 6, 2021, rebellion, when rioters supporting President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol. In 2020 and 2021, it was Johnson, alongside the Home sergeant-at-arms, who led Home impeachment managers to ship articles of impeachment in opposition to Trump to the U.S. Senate.

However no activity has been extra distinguished than the one earlier than her this week. It’s not the primary time she’s been accountable for the Home: When a brand new Congress convenes each two years, the clerk is answerable for the Home till it elects a brand new speaker. However prior to now, that course of has lasted a matter of minutes — not 4 days.

What McCarthy’s concessions could cost him — and the GOP

Up to now week, Johnson oversaw round after round of voting, tedious roll calls that, from Alma Adams (D-N.C.) to Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) may take upward of an hour. All through all of it, Johnson was as a gradual and agency presence, rotating from a tall leather-based chair at the back of the room, the place she could possibly be seen taking notes and sipping from plastic cups of water, to the dais the place, with just a few raps of her gavel, Johnson commanded the room.

When the din of chattering representatives bought too loud, or when arguments broke out within the chamber, as they did between Kat Cammack (R-Fla.) and Home Democrats earlier within the week, Johnson referred to as for order and “established decorum.”

And every time a vote failed, it was Johnson who delivered the counts under an empty speaker’s chair, ending them in a frustratingly acquainted chorus: “No member elect having obtained a majority of the votes solid, a speaker has not been elected.”

After a Friday evening of twists and turns resulted in one other failed Speaker bid, Kevin McCarthy was lastly elected to steer the Republican-controlled home within the fifteenth spherical of voting.

Just a little after 12:30 am Japanese time Saturday, Johnson introduced to the chamber that McCarthy had obtained 216 out of 428 votes. “The Honorable Kevin McCarthy of the state of California, having obtained a majority of the votes solid, is duly elected Speaker of the Home of Representatives,” stated Johnson.

And with that, the Home clerk’s tenure got here to an finish.

This publish has been up to date.

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