A Black Woman Presides Over US House of Representatives for the First Time In History

A Black Woman Presides Over US House of Representatives for the First Time In History

Cheryl Johnson, who was sworn in as Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives by Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2021, begins a historic term as the House seeks a new leader.

As the Pelosi era comes to a close, the vote to choose a new House Speaker is adamant. The ending of her two-decade reign is required by the Constitution for any new Congress to be selecting the House’s presiding officer, who is simultaneously a party leader, and the institution’s administrative head, among other duties.

The speaker position is traditionally filled on the first day of a new Congress, followed by the swearing-in of members. After Wednesday’s ballots, however, it was revealed that no candidate received the 218 votes required to take the helm, marking a significant time in history, CNBC News reported.

The absence of a leader not only freezes critical business, but the adoption of House rules cannot take place and there could be no legislating without fully functioning committees.

As the second person of color to serve as Clerk of the House, Johnson’s presence is solidified. Now, she serves as the House chair, making her the first Black woman to assume the presiding officer role until a new Speaker is selected, per MSNBC. Her consequential position could take days.

An alumna of Iowa, Howard and Harvard University, the New Orleans native devoted nearly 20 years in the House followed by 10 years at the Smithsonian Institution before her clerkship. She served as Director of the Smithsonian’s Office of Government Relations, where she worked with Smithsonian leadership and the Board of Regents to sustain strong relationships with Congress.

After landing on Capitol Hill, Johnson was the Chief Education and Investigative Counsel for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and served as Director and Counsel for the Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials.