As the Clerk of the House of Representatives, Cheryl L. Johnson has tried to keep lawmakers in order.
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Cheryl L. Johnson, right, has worked to keep the house in order as the vote for speaker reached its third day.
Cheryl L. Johnson is no stranger to the arcane and sometimes repetitive elements of parliamentary procedure in Congress. Before she took the position, she worked for nearly 20 years in the House, with stints on the Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials and the House Committee on Education and Labor, where she served as a principal policy adviser and spokeswoman.
But infighting among Republicans has put Ms. Johnson in the unusual position of keeping the House running through her own rulings in the absence of a speaker. The speaker of the House is responsible for setting House rules. Without one in place, enforcing smooth and peaceful operations has fallen to Ms. Johnson until a vote succeeds.
As acrimony grew among lawmakers struggling to settle on a speaker for a third day, even Ms. Johnson appeared exasperated.
In her opening on Thursday, she implored lawmakers to be polite and halt the grandstanding that has consumed previous votes.
“Before proceeding further, the chair would like to clarify that as part of the clerk’s role during the organization of the house, the clerk has the responsibility to preserve order and decorum in the chamber,” she said, before lecturing lawmakers to follow etiquette on the House floor.
“Members-elect should refrain from engaging in personalities toward other members-elect,” she said. “The chair appreciates the cooperation of members-elect in respecting and upholding order and decorum in the House — thank you.”
So far, members have largely respected Ms. Johnson’s authority, not speaking out of turn and keeping their nomination speeches and votes within a respectful length and tone. But with frustration growing in the chamber, some lawmakers began to express disdain for the process both on and off the House floor.
Ms. Johnson is no stranger to discontent in the House. Sworn in twice, in 2019 and 2021, she presided over two impeachment proceedings against former President Donald J. Trump and witnessed the attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021.
A native of New Orleans, Ms. Johnson, who is in her early 60s, earned a degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa and a law degree from Howard University in Washington.