Who is new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson?

Mike Johnson is a hardliner on abortion and LGBT+ rights, and led an effort to overturn the 2020 election results in swing states

Rachel Sharp,Eric Garcia
Wednesday 25 October 2023 22:32 BST
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Mike Johnson addresses congress for first time as House speaker

House Republicans elected Rep Mike Johnson (R-LA) to be the next speaker of the House, 22 days after the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

Mr Johnson, the former deputy whip, won 220 votes on the floor after House Republicans coalesced around him on Tuesday evening. His ascent came after House Majority Whip Tom Emmer dropped out a mere four hours after the House Republican conference nominated him to be speaker.

Republicans from all factions of the conference cheered Mr Johnson and whistled on the floor, chanting his name.

Who is Mike Johnson?

Mr Johnson was first elected to Congress in 2016. For two years he was chair of the Republican Study Committee and in 2021 year became the vice chair of the House Republican Conference. Mr Johnson is a member of the House Freedom Caucus and serves on the Judiciary Committee.

A former attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, Mr Johnson is considered an arch-social conservative staunchly opposed to abortion. Earlier this year, he introduced legislation that would have made it illegal to transport a person under the age of 18 across state lines to obtain an abortion without parental notification.

He is also an ardent opponent of LGBT+ rights. Rep Angie Craig (D-MN), the first openly gay mother in Congress, said “Happy anniversary to my wife,” before casting her vote for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries during the House vote to elect Mr Johnson speaker on Wednesday (25 October).

In December 2020, Mr Johnson, a lawyer by trade, filed an amicus brief on behalf of himself and 125 other House Republicans for a lawsuit filed by Texas to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Despite his hard-right bent, many Republicans from swing districts cast their vote for him on the floor enthusiastically.

Prior to joining Congress, Mr Johnson may be remembered for proposing a controversial bill in Louisiana that could have allowed the state to withhold a bevy of state benefits from a person based on their views on the institution of marriage.

How did he become the GOP nominee?

The Louisiana congressman was picked by his party on Tuesday night, just hours after Mr Emmer abruptly pulled out.

The vote came 22 days after the ouster of Mr McCarthy after Rep Matt Gaetz (R-FL) filed a motion to vacate the chair, which triggered a non-confidence vote. That in turn triggered a three-week frenzy to find a new speaker.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan then faced off to become the nominee, but as soon as Mr Scalise beat Mr Jordan, arch-conservatives rebelled and pledged to oppose Mr Scalise on the floor, which led to him removing himself from the running.

In response, Republicans nominated Mr Jordan, who failed after three votes last week before Republicans voted in a secret ballot to drop him.

Mr Johnson became the fourth GOP nominee after Mr Emmer dropped out of the race. Mr Emmer’s speaker bid lasted only four hours before he dropped out in the face of steadfast opposition from Donald Trump allies. The former president attacked Mr Emmer as a “Globalist RINO” in a Truth Social post.

“I have many wonderful friends wanting to be Speaker of the House, and some are truly great Warriors. RINO Tom Emmer, who I do not know well, is not one of them. He never respected the Power of a Trump Endorsement, or the breadth and scope of MAGA—MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” he wrote.

“I believe he has now learned his lesson, because he is saying that he is Pro-Trump all the way, but who can ever be sure? Has he only changed because that’s what it takes to win?

“The Republican Party cannot take that chance, because that’s not where the America First Voters are. Voting for a Globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake!”

Mr Trump then later tried to claim credit for “killing” Mr Emmer’s bid, posting a link to an article by Politico, titled “‘I killed him’: How Trump torpedoed Tom Emmer’s speaker bid”.

“He’s done. It’s over. I killed him,” Mr Trump allegedly told an ally, per the report.

What about the 2020 question?

Simply put, Mike Johnson was Donald Trump’s man on Capitol Hill — until he wasn’t.

Then a second-term congressman, he led the effort to garner signatures from his fellow House Republicans for a Texas lawsuit seeking to invalidate the election results in several swing states based on the false claims of voter fraud alleged by the Trump campaign after Mr Trump’s defeat to Joe Biden. The lawsuit died before being heard by the Supreme Court, as the justices ruled that Texas had no standing to interfere in the election processes of other states.

But Mr Johnson also called for Mr Trump to concede once his legal options were exhausted — a key choice that may endear him to those Republicans who have refused to play along with the lies told by the former president about the 2020 election. As a result, the bridge between the two factions in the House GOP was found through Mr Johnson.

In a discussion with Robert Doar of the American Enterprise Institute in December 2020, he urged Mr Trump to do just that, though only after attempting every legal method to change the results of the election or require audits of the vote. Fighting voter fraud, he said at the time, was important even “if this current election is not capable of being overturned now,” and noted that “it’s probably not”.

“That’s the reality,” he added.

Mr Doar then interrupted him.

“He has exhausted his legal remedies, and he’s not winning,” said the AEI president, who then asked if Mr Trump should concede the election — which the president was adamantly refusing to do.

“He has to do that,” Mr Johnson responded. “There’s no question about that.”

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