Rep. Mike Johnson, a little-known Congressman from Louisiana and lower-ranked member of Republican leadership, was elected Speaker of the House on Wednesday.
Rep. Mike Johnson, a little-known Congressman from Louisiana and lower-ranked member of Republican leadership, was elected Speaker of the House on Wednesday. Johnson’s ascension ends three weeks of Republican infighting kicked off by the shock ouster of Kevin McCarthy.
- Johnson was Republicans’ fourth nominee for speaker after previous nominees Steve Scalise, the majority leader, Jim Jordan, the Judiciary Committee chairman, and Tom Emmer, the majority whip, were all brought down by internal enemies.
- Johnson was elected by a 220-209 vote on the House floor, becoming the first GOP House Speaker to be elected unanimously by his party since John Boehner in 2011. Republicans on the House floor appeared to be relieved the interminable speaker quagmire was over.
- Former President Donald Trump demonstrated his endorsement has influence within the GOP conference – to a point. Trump’s endorsement of Jordan was not enough for him to defeat Scalise within the conference or help him over the finish line on the House floor, but his opposition to Emmer was sufficient to doom his chances.
- Johnson will now have to try and unify a Republican Conference that’s been at each other’s throats for the last three weeks before the government shuts down on Nov. 17. The House will need to pass a government funding bill before then. McCarthy’s downfall was initiated by the last shutdown deadline.
- The new speaker is largely unknown nationally but has made social conservative issues a core part of his political identity. Johnson is to the right of Trump on gay marriage and abortion.
- He used his opposition to gay marriage to his advantage to help bring down Tom Emmer despite losing to him in the conference vote and despite Emmer having the same position on gay marriage as Trump. Johnson was then able to secure the nomination after Emmer’s withdrawal.
- Johnson represents energy-producing regions around Shreveport and receives more campaign donations from oil and gas companies compared to any other industry. He opposes federal green energy initiatives like the Green New Deal, which he nicknamed “A Greedy New Steal.”
- The new speaker’s inexperience could end up empowering Scalise and Emmer, who will maintain their senior leadership positions as majority leader and whip. Johnson will need to quickly shepherd through legislation to prevent a shutdown, support Israel and Ukraine, and manage the narrow Republican majority that’s already destroyed one GOP speaker this year.
- CNN investigated Johnson’s history as a long and passionate opponent of gay rights. In editorials from the mid-2000s, Johnson wrote that openly gay people made “bizarre choices” and led an “inherently unnatural” and “dangerous lifestyle.” Johnson argued against the 2003 Supreme Court outlawing sodomy bans, writing “States have many legitimate grounds to proscribe same-sex deviate sexual intercourse.” Johnson made Emmer’s support for a bill legalizing gay marriage a key part of his argument when he lost to Emmer in Wednesday’s initial vote.
- The Washington Post highlighted Johnson’s “central role in trying to overturn the 2020 vote.” The then-backbencher “recruited 125 House Republicans to join him in signing a U.S. Supreme Court brief saying as much, and on Jan. 6, 2021, an even larger group of lawmakers, including Johnson, voted against certifying the electoral college vote for Biden in two key battlegrounds. Johnson has never repudiated his part in any of it.”
- The New York Times argued Johnson’s victory means “in the end, Republican hard-liners got their man.” Johnson “shares the deeply conservative ideology of his mentor Mr. Jordan but lacks the confrontational profile or hard-edge style of the Ohioan. In fact, he has little profile at all.”
- Breitbart covered the “utter meltdown” Democrats had after Johnson’s ascension. House Democrats labeled him a “MAGA Extremist,” “MAGA Mike Johnson,” and an “insurrectionist.”
- National Review noted Johnson is the least experienced speaker to take office in 140 years. Johnson is in his fourth term and has never served in a senior leadership position or chaired a committee. John Carlisle (D-KY) was similarly inexperienced when he became speaker in 1883.
- The Wall Street Journal observed Johnson is the “son of a firefighter who was critically burned and disabled in the line of duty” and died three days before his first election to Congress in 2016. Johnson also started the bipartisan Civility Caucus.
© Dominic Moore, 2023