Meet Cheryl Johnson: The Black Woman Leading The House Until A Speaker Is Chosen

Bill Clark/ Getty Images

This week, the House has attempted — and failed — to elect a new speaker 12 times, effectively leaving the chamber in limbo.

It’s the first time in 100 years that the House has struggled to elect someone to the position. Until it does, the chamber can’t seat members, and there are technically no official rules. That means the House clerk, who worked under the previous speaker, is in charge.

Amid the chaos, House Clerk Cheryl L. Johnson has taken center stage as she works to maintain order in the chamber. Johnson, the House Clerk since 2019, has presided over the chamber and called members to order throughout the week.

Johnson is the 36th Clerk of the House. She is one of only four women to hold the role and the second Black woman. She’s been in the role through two impeachments, the Jan. 6 insurgency, and now the chaos surrounding the election of a new speaker.

She is a New Orleans native who graduated from Howard University with a law degree after studying journalism and mass communication at the University of Iowa in undergrad, according to her bio. Johnson was the Smithsonian Institution’s director of government relations for a decade before becoming House clerk.

At a press conference on Thursday, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the Democratic leader in the House and the candidate with the most votes for Speaker in each round of voting, praised Johnson.

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

The House clerk is elected every two years at the start of a new Congress. After a Speaker is elected, each party nominates a clerk.

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