U.S. Rep. Derrick Van Orden of western Wisconsin did not vote, as he is in Israel on a fact-finding trip.
By Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT
After more than three weeks, the country has a Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Multiple GOP candidates failed to receive a majority of House votes in the past few weeks, but a unanimous vote from congressional Republicans Wednesday installed Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as Speaker. The powerful position is second-in-line to the presidency, behind the vice president.
Johnson is a socially conservative attorney who played a leading role in congressional efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
The Republicans’ slim 9-seat majority in the 435-member House made nearly all their votes essential, as Democrats repeatedly backed their minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, a customary move from the party in the minority. Three Democrats did not vote.
Rep. Derrick Van Orden, a Republican from Prairie du Chien in western Wisconsin, was the only Republican not to vote. He has been in Israel for several days on a fact-finding trip. It’s apparently a self-assigned mission. Van Orden’s press secretary did not respond to emailed questions.
When he departed for the Middle East last week, Van Orden released a statement explaining why he was leaving during an unprecedented time for the U.S., one in which his vote might have been needed by his party.
“Currently, as I write this piece, there is no path for a new Speaker, and Congress remains rudderless and in disarray,” he wrote in a statement released Friday titled “My commitment to Israel in the midst of congressional chaos.” “There is no sense of urgency to elect a Speaker despite the many challenges we face at home, including an open southern border and skyrocketing gas and grocery prices.”
Van Orden wrote that he had several reasons for taking the trip.
“As a retired Navy SEAL and combat medic, I am uniquely qualified to objectively ascertain the ground truth and bring that information back to Congress where I can hopefully increase the sense of urgency for my colleagues of both parties to put aside their petty personal and significant political differences and act in the best interest of America and our beleaguered allies,” he continued.
On Tuesday, presumably from Israel, Van Orden tweeted “Mike Johnson is an outstanding man and will make a fantastic Speaker.”
Rebecca Cooke, one of several Democrats running to replace Van Orden, slammed him on X: “A Congress in chaos – he didn’t lead, he left.”
“Congress stalled for 22 days,” she continued. “What happens when a firefighter doesn’t show up for work? The house burns down. Or a carpenter walks off a job site? They’re fired. Why should we hold our elected officials, like DVO, to a different standard?”
The eight congressional Republicans from Wisconsin voted “yea” for the Speaker candidate in all previous votes, including to retain former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and twice for Rep. Jim Jordan, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, to take the top spot. The remaining seven Wisconsin Republicans all voted for Johnson.
The two Wisconsin Democrats Reps. Gwen Moore of Milwaukee and Mark Pocan of Madison joined the rest of their party to vote for their minority leader in all four Speaker elections this month.
The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.