NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate provides the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 25th, 2023

House Republicans pick a new Speaker at last: Ultra MAGA Congressman Mike Johnson

After weeks of feud­ing amongst them­selves, Repub­li­cans in the Unit­ed States House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives vot­ed today to elect a new Speak­er who comes from the par­ty’s Trumpian wing: Ultra MAGA Con­gress­man Mike John­son of Louisiana, who has no expe­ri­ence serv­ing in the cham­ber pri­or to the Trump error.

The vote to elect John­son was unan­i­mous among Repub­li­cans, with all 220 Repub­li­cans who vot­ed back­ing his can­di­da­cy. Democ­rats, mean­while, vot­ed unan­i­mous­ly for their leader, Hakeem Jef­fries, who is expect­ed to become Speak­er in Jan­u­ary of 2025 if Democ­rats recap­ture the House major­i­ty next year.

Four rep­re­sen­ta­tives did not par­tic­i­pate in the vote:

  • Bren­dan F. Boyle (D‑Pennsylvania)
  • J. Luis Cor­rea (D‑California)
  • Vicente Gon­za­lez (D‑Texas)
  • Der­rick Van Orden (R‑Wisconsin)

John­son is the first Speak­er in U.S. his­to­ry to come from the state of Louisiana.

If you’ve nev­er heard of Mike John­son, that’s under­stand­able, because he has not been a key fig­ure in House Repub­li­can lead­er­ship until now. John­son has been described as bet­ter man­nered than oth­er ultra MAGA mem­bers of the cau­cus, like fire­brand Jim Jor­dan, but ide­o­log­i­cal­ly, John­son is way, way out there.

Here’s a few key para­graphs from his Wikipedia entry:

A mem­ber of the Chris­t­ian right fac­tion of the Repub­li­can Par­ty, John­son is known for his strong sup­port for a nation­wide abor­tion ban and an end to legal same-sex mar­riages. He has called for the Supreme Court deci­sion Oberge­fell v. Hodges to be over­turned and for med­ical mar­i­jua­na to be restrict­ed, refer­ring to the lat­ter as a “gate­way drug”. In Decem­ber 2020, John­son signed an ami­cus brief in sup­port of Texas v. Penn­syl­va­nia, a law­suit filed at the Supreme Court con­test­ing the results of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial election.

In Jan­u­ary 2021, John­son vot­ed to over­turn the elec­tion results in Penn­syl­va­nia. John­son has cul­ti­vat­ed close ties to Protes­tant fun­da­men­tal­ist groups Answers in Gen­e­sis, Louisiana Fam­i­ly Forum, Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom, and Focus on the Family.

Pri­or to his career as a politi­cian, he worked with them to “rep­re­sent church­es, pas­tors and con­gre­gants whose vision of reli­gious free­dom con­flict­ed with gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions”. John­son sup­ports end­ing Amer­i­can mil­i­tary aid to Ukraine in its war with Russia.

So, just to recap:

  • John­son is mil­i­tant­ly opposed to repro­duc­tive rights and favors a nation­wide ban on abor­tion, includ­ing in blue states.
  • John­son opposed LGBTQ+ rights and wants to get rid of the free­dom to mar­ry — a right now enshrined in fed­er­al law.
  • John­son oppos­es end­ing the failed war on drugs and imple­ment­ing a new approach to reg­u­lat­ing the use of con­trolled substances.
  • John­son oppos­es aid for Ukraine, a democ­ra­cy fight­ing for its sur­vival against a mur­der­ous neigh­bor­ing regime that wants to con­quer it.
  • John­son is an insur­rec­tion­ist who tried to help Don­ald Trump remain in pow­er after he lost the 2020 elec­tion to Pres­i­dent Biden fair and square.

John­son is just as bad or worse than Jim Jor­dan on a whole range of issues and con­cerns, yet every sin­gle “rea­son­able” or “mod­er­ate” Repub­li­can vot­ed to put him in the Speak­er’s chair. Every sin­gle one. They may come to regret their deci­sion, espe­cial­ly the ones who rep­re­sent dis­tricts that vot­ed for Joe Biden.

Reporters and observers, take note: At a crit­i­cal junc­ture for the coun­try, Repub­li­cans like Don Bacon did what they have so often done before: They will­ing­ly vot­ed to give more pow­er to an extrem­ist who wants to impose their mil­i­tant strict father moral­i­ty on every sin­gle Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty and family.

John­son and his wife are pod­cast­ers, and reporters are now scru­ti­niz­ing their record­ings for insights into what John­son believes and how he might legislate.

“The pod­casts, span­ning 69 episodes, offer an extend­ed win­dow into Mr. John­son’s views and pol­i­tics, as he co-hosts the pro­gram with his wife, a licensed pas­toral coun­selor,” The New York Times’ Steve Eder explained in a live­blog update dis­cussing John­son’s elec­tion. “In it, the man who has just been elect­ed speak­er, an evan­gel­i­cal Chris­t­ian, talks at length about his vehe­ment oppo­si­tion to abor­tion rights, calls the Demo­c­ra­t­ic agen­da social­ist, and rails against the pros­e­cu­tion of Mr. Trump for his efforts to inter­fere in the 2020 election.”

“It is the hon­or of a life­time to have been elect­ed the 56th Speak­er of the House,” said John­son in a state­ment post­ed to speaker.gov.

“Thank you to my col­leagues, friends, staff, and fam­i­ly for the unmatched sup­port through­out this process. It has been an ardu­ous few weeks, and a reminder that the House is as com­pli­cat­ed and diverse as the peo­ple we rep­re­sent. The urgency of this moment demands bold, deci­sive action to restore trust, advance our leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties, and demon­strate good governance.”

“Our House Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence is unit­ed, and eager to work,” John­son added, in a com­ment that lacks cred­i­bil­i­ty. “As Speak­er, I will ensure the House deliv­ers results and inspires change for the Amer­i­can peo­ple. We will restore trust in this body. We will advance a com­pre­hen­sive con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­cy agen­da, com­bat the harm­ful poli­cies of the Biden Admin­is­tra­tion, and sup­port our allies abroad. And we will restore san­i­ty to a gov­ern­ment des­per­ate­ly in need of it.”

Democ­rats offered a range of reac­tions to John­son’s election.

Pres­i­dent Biden and Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Chuck Schumer, who’ll have to deal with John­son to avert a gov­ern­ment shut­down, offered their con­grat­u­la­tions, but point­ed out that time was run­ning out to agree on fis­cal policy.

“Jill and I con­grat­u­late Speak­er John­son on his elec­tion,” said Pres­i­dent Biden.

“As I said when this process began, who­ev­er the Speak­er is, I will seek to work with them in good faith on behalf of the Amer­i­can peo­ple. That’s a prin­ci­ple I have always held to, and that I’ve act­ed on – deliv­er­ing major bipar­ti­san leg­is­la­tion on infra­struc­ture, out­com­pet­ing Chi­na, gun reform, and vet­er­ans care.”

“I restat­ed my will­ing­ness to con­tin­ue work­ing across the aisle after Repub­li­cans won the major­i­ty in the House last year. By the same token, the Amer­i­can peo­ple have made clear that they expect House Repub­li­cans to work with me and with Sen­ate Democ­rats to gov­ern across the aisle – to pro­tect our urgent nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests and grow our econ­o­my for the mid­dle class.”

“While House Repub­li­cans spent the last 22 days deter­min­ing who would lead their con­fer­ence, I have worked on those press­ing issues, propos­ing a his­toric sup­ple­men­tal fund­ing pack­age that advances our bipar­ti­san nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests in Israel and Ukraine, secures our bor­der, and invests in the Amer­i­can peo­ple. These pri­or­i­ties have been endorsed by lead­ers in both parties.”

“We need to move swift­ly to address our nation­al secu­ri­ty needs and to avoid a shut­down in 22 days. Even though we have real dis­agree­ments about impor­tant issues, there should be mutu­al effort to find com­mon ground wher­ev­er we can. This is a time for all of us to act respon­si­bly, and to put the good of the Amer­i­can peo­ple and the every­day pri­or­i­ties of Amer­i­can fam­i­lies above any partisanship.”

Pres­i­dent Biden and Vice Pres­i­dent Har­ris’ cam­paign offered a very dif­fer­ent take.

“MAGA Mike Johnson’s ascen­sion to the speak­er­ship cements the extreme MAGA takeover of the House Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence,” said Ammar Mous­sa, spokesper­son for Biden-Har­ris 2024, in a state­ment pro­vid­ed to NPI.

“Now, Don­ald Trump has his loy­al foot sol­dier to ban abor­tion nation­wide, lead efforts to deny free and fair elec­tion results, gut Social Secu­ri­ty and Medicare, and advance the extreme MAGA agen­da at the expense of mid­dle-class families.”

“Twen­ty-two days before Con­gress must act to avoid a gov­ern­ment shut­down and while our allies over­seas at war depend on our help, extreme MAGA House Repub­li­cans ele­vat­ed a man to sec­ond-in-line to the pres­i­den­cy who still won’t admit Pres­i­dent Biden won the 2020 elec­tion,” Mous­sa added.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple have reject­ed the extreme MAGA ide­ol­o­gy at the bal­lot box because they under­stand what’s at stake. And so to every MAGA Repub­li­can who sup­port­ed this choice: We’ll see you in November.”

With today’s roll call for Speak­er hav­ing been exact­ly along par­ty lines, there’s no con­trary votes to ana­lyze. Every Repub­li­can from the Pacif­ic North­west — Lori Chavez-DeRe­mer, Cliff Bentz, Dan New­house, Cathy McMor­ris Rodgers, Russ Fulcher, Mike Simp­son, Matt Rosendale, Ryan Zinke — gave John­son their support.

John­son’s ascen­sion ends a peri­od of paral­y­sis in the House. It is a devel­op­ment that sur­prised some observers, who were not expect­ing the dead­lock to be bro­ken so swift­ly after Tom Emmer end­ed his bid for the speak­er­ship. Emmer was the third hope­ful for Speak­er who had to pull the plug on his can­di­da­cy after real­iz­ing he would­n’t be able to get 217 votes, after Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan.

John­son has not yet com­ment­ed on whether he’s going to aggres­sive­ly sup­port the base­less impeach­ment inquiry begun by Kevin McCarthy sev­er­al weeks ago, but Trump will prob­a­bly be expect­ing him to, and John­son is a loy­al sol­dier for Trump. Trump declared that he was pleased with the selec­tion of John­son, using all caps to declare that John­son would be “a great speak­er” in an online posting.

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