US House of Representatives: The woman with the gavel: Cheryl Johnson tames the election chaos in the Capitol

She is currently a minor celebrity: Cheryl Johnson, 62.

US House of Representatives: The woman with the gavel: Cheryl Johnson tames the election chaos in the Capitol

She is currently a minor celebrity: Cheryl Johnson, 62. Every evening these days she stands in front of the lectern in the US Congress and repeats the same message like a mantra: "A speaker has not been elected" – a speaker has not been chosen chosen.

The embarrassing spectacle in the Capitol in Washington, in which the Republicans are trying to elect their majority leader Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House of Representatives, has now lasted three days. But because a small group of dissidents loyal to Trump stubbornly refused to support him, eleven ballots have now passed without success. An almost historic debacle for the Grand Old Party, as they like to call themselves.

The only constant in this tragedy is Cheryl Johnson, who swings the hammer night after night, ballot after ballot, in order to give the voting chaos at least a touch of order and dignity. A task that Johnson probably would not have chosen. Rather, it owes it to its function. Johnson is the clerk of the house. Secretary, if you will: the top secretary of the US Congress.

In normal times, it falls to the holder of the office to chair the first session after the election of the newly constituted chamber, in which a speaker is then elected. A formality actually - and definitely not a job that will make you famous.

But in US politics, times are anything but normal at the moment. As a result, at the end of the third day of voting, Arkansas Rep. French Hill stood up and began his re-nomination for Kevin McCarthy with a thank you: "Let me express my deep appreciation, and that of everyone present, for the work you are doing perform, Madame Clerk," he said.

The House of Representatives responded with a standing ovation. Someone even yelled "Johnson for Speaker," which led to roaring laughter. The celebrated woman didn't show anything, clasped her hands, smiled politely and continued. You already know that by now. In the days before she was addressed several times as "Madam Speaker" instead of "Madam Clerk".

Normally, the secretary is a little-known office in the protocol of US democracy, an administrative post that includes, among other things, certifying the passage of all bills and resolutions by the chamber. Johnson has held the post since 2019. At that time she was nominated by Nancy Pelosi and she appointed her again in 2021. The small, petite woman hails from New Orleans and holds a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communications from the University of Iowa and a law degree from Howard University. Since 1789 there have only been four women who hold the title of House Clerk. Johnson is only the second African American woman to hold the position.

Johnson is no stranger to parliamentary turmoil. For example, she was twice entrusted with handing over indictments against former President Donald Trump.

Personally, no statements about the current election chaos come from her lips. That alone prohibits the impartiality of her office. Her task is particularly thankless, since there are few historical precedents and no official rules to which she could adhere. She has nothing at her disposal apart from her standing desk, her microphone and her maple hammer, which she can use to call MPs to order.

But her manner of carrying out her duties, her calm and determination have helped ensure that Johnson appears as a rock in the turbulent election sessions. One almost gets the impression that the total collapse of democratic protocol in the US depends solely on this small, petite woman with a mallet.

A burden recognized across party lines by all members of the House. Democratic MP Ro Khanna tweeted Thursday: "She is exceptional, with no rules to rely on, with a sense of fairness and order."

Nevertheless, Johnson should be happy if she is a little less in the limelight in the future. Her term of office is about to end. The next Secretary will be nominated by the incoming Speaker of the House of Representatives. But that can take time: in 1856, the House of Representatives needed 133 ballots to choose a Speaker.

Sources: BBC, CNN