Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana ended three weeks of Republican chaos Wednesday by winning election as House Speaker.
Leapfrogging better-known GOP leaders, Johnson won the votes of all 220 Republican colleagues, succeeding in avoiding riling up any significant group in the fractious House caucus.
Now that he has the speaker’s gavel, Johnson faces a lengthy legislative to-do list topped by passing aid to Israel as it battles Hamas and funding the government ahead of a Thanksgiving deadline.
Who is Mike Johnson?
Johnson, 51, is a four-term congressman from Shreveport, Louisiana.
He was a state lawmaker, law professor and activist for a Christian conservative legal group before winning election to Congress in 2016.
Johnson represents a ruby red district that covers most of northwest Louisiana, a conservative area that has swung even further to the right in recent years.
He overwhelmingly won reelection by a 2-1 margin in 2020 and didn’t even face any opposition in 2022.
How did Johnson become speaker?
Johnson won by a 220-209 vote with all Republicans voting for him and all Democrats voting for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
He emerged as a candidate a day earlier only after three much better-known candidates crashed and burned amid opposition from significant factions within the divided Republican caucus.
Johnson officially replaces Kevin McCarthy, who was hounded out of the speaker’s post by a group of eight hardliners for the first time in history.
Where does Johnson stand on issues?
Johnson is among the most staunchly conservative members of Congress and a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump.
Although he is relatively soft spoken, Johnson holds very far right-wing views on everything from abortion and gay rights to Trump’s effort to stay in power after losing the 2020 election.
He supports a national ban on all abortions and introduced a bill that would have imposed a ban on all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a break from some Republicans who favor leaving abortion rights to the states.
One of Johnson’s far-fetched claims about abortion is that legal abortion endangers retirement programs like Social Security and Medicare because it permits women to avoid giving birth to more “able-bodied workers.”
Johnson is a strong opponent of same-sex marriage, a right that could be in danger because the legal support for it is virtually the same as that of the now overturned Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.
He backed a national version of Florida’s controversial so-called “don’t say gay” law restricting discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in classrooms.
On the 2020 election, Johnson signed onto a lawsuit that claimed President Joe Biden’s victories in several battleground states were invalid, claims that were tossed out by judges. He nevertheless voted against certifying Biden’s win even after the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
What will Johnson do now?
The first item on Johnson’s agenda will be to get the House back to passing laws, something it hasn’t been doing since McCarthy was stripped of the gavel.
He will need to figure out a way to pass aid to Israel to help in its war with Hamas. But the White House and Senate want that aid tied to aid to Ukraine, which Johnson and many Republicans oppose.
Johnson will also need to negotiate a new spending deal to fund the government after a looming Thanksgiving deadline.
The peril to the new guy should be obvious: McCarthy’s decision to keep the government open by compromising with Democrats led to his ouster.
Will Johnson hurt GOP chances of holding the House?
That’s the biggest question for Democrats who hope to use Johnson as an albatross around the neck of moderates, including the six New York Republicans who flipped Democratic-held seats in 2022.
If they can convince voters that Johnson is too conservative, those so-called front-line Republicans in suburban swing districts could be swept from office in 2024 and pave the way for a new Democratic majority.
Republicans will hope that Johnson can keep his head down and avoid taking harsh far-right stands that could be extremely controversial in suburban swing districts.