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.
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.