Who is House Clerk Cheryl Johnson overseeing Speaker vote?

House Clerk Cheryl Johnson has taken center stage amid the disarray of Republicans trying to choose the next Speaker, attempting to keep order in the Speakerless chamber.

Because the chamber can’t seat members without a new Speaker elected, Johnson, who has been House clerk since 2019, is presiding over the House, without her usual duties of delivering messages to the Senate and certifying the passage of bills.

However, the House also has not passed rules for this session, giving her few guidelines for enforcing order amid the chaos.

Johnson is a native of New Orleans and earned a law degree from Howard University after receiving an undergraduate degree in journalism and mass communication from the University of Iowa. She worked for the Smithsonian for a decade, as its director of government relations, before becoming House clerk.

Johnson, who is the fourth woman and second Black person to hold the role, has presided over six rounds of voting for House Speaker so far and has had to intervene in speeches from members on the floor to keep control of a chamber in the middle of inter- and intraparty battles.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who is the Democratic leader in the House and has had the most votes for Speaker in every round of voting, praised Johnson at a press conference on Thursday.

“I think Cheryl Johnson, who is a historic figure in her own right, is doing a very good job under difficult circumstances,” Jeffries said.

But the Speakership chaos is not the first turmoil that Johnson has seen in her short stint as House clerk. Since assuming the position in 2019, Johnson has witnessed two different impeachment proceedings and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol. 

The position of House clerk is elected every two years at the start of a new Congress. Each party nominates a clerk after a Speaker is elected.