Mike Johnson is the new Speaker of the House. The Louisiana Republican won the gavel on Wednesday, three chaos-filled weeks after the party ousted Kevin McCarthy from the position earlier this month. Republicans voted unanimously to make him second in line to the presidency.
Johnson, who was elected to the House in 2016, is serving just his fourth term in Congress and is the least experienced Speaker elected to the position since the 1870s. Three other candidates, Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), and Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) failed to convert their nominations into a successful floor vote, paving the way for Johnson.
Johnson may lack seniority, but he has a hardline, fundamentalist, and Trump-friendly record — which garnered a nod of approval from the former president hours before the vote. Trump was quick to congratulate Johnson after he won the gavel. “Congratulations to Rep. Mike Johnson,” he wrote on Truth Social. “He will be a GREAT ‘SPEAKER.’ MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”
The most conservative members of the Republican Caucus are celebrating Johnson’s rise to the most powerful position in the House. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), the architect of McCarthy’s ouster, told far-right political activist Steve Bannon on Wednesday that “if you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention.”
Here’s what you need to know about the 56th Speaker of the House of Representatives:
He’s a Trump diehard and helped plot the 2020 election coup
The defining feature of Johnson’s career in the House to date has been his loyalty to former President Donald Trump.
Johnson served on Trump’s defense team in both of his Senate impeachment trials — the first for his alleged efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate the Biden family and the second over his role in the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Johnson also rallied support in Congress for Trump’s challenges to his 2020 election loss. Johnson personally lobbied, and secured support, from 126 House Republicans for an amicus brief to a Texas lawsuit that sought to invalidate millions of votes from four key battleground states won by Joe Biden in 2020. Johnson personally sent an email to members of the House and Senate with the subject line “Time-sensitive request from President Trump.”
“He specifically asked me to contact all Republican Members of the House and Senate today and request that all join on to our brief,” Johnson wrote. “He said he will be anxiously awaiting the final list to review.”
The lawsuit was ultimately rejected by the Supreme Court, but Johnson’s efforts went far beyond the Texas lawsuit. According to The New York Times, Johnson was the mind behind a spurious legal argument claiming that the pandemic-era changes to voting rights were unconstitutional, and could invalidate election results in various states. Johnson reportedly proposed his theory to the GOP House caucus the night before Jan. 6, and Republicans used the argument to justify voting against certifying the election.
Johnson also promoted conspiracy theories that Dominion Voting Systems, a voting machine and software company, helped rig the election against Trump. “The allegations about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with this software by Dominion, there’s a lot of merit to that,” Johnson said in November of 2020. “They know that in Georgia it really was rigged.”
He is a fierce opponent of reproductive rights
Johnson is a hardline opponent of reproductive rights. He has championed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, and is currently co-sponsoring multiple nationwide abortion bans.
Johnson doesn’t just believe abortion should be illegal, though; he thinks anyone who performs one should do hard time. “Late yesterday, the La. Department of Health informed abortion facilities in our state that the right to life has now been RESTORED! Perform an abortion and get imprisoned at hard labor for 1-10 yrs & fined $10K-$100K,” he wrote of the state’s response to the death of Roe in the summer of 2022.
Johnson has also argued that abortion is depriving the economy of workers. “Roe v. Wade gave constitutional cover to the elective killing of unborn children in America. Period. You think about the implications of that on the economy. … If we had all those able-bodied workers in the economy, we wouldn’t be going upside down and toppling over like this.”
This is House Republicans’ latest Speaker nominee pic.twitter.com/JiWO2cZrMX
— House Democrats (@HouseDemocrats) October 25, 2023
He thinks homosexuality is “unnatural” and “dangerous”
Before his 2016 election, Johnson was an attorney who worked primarily with conservative legislative activist groups like the Alliance Defense Fund (now the Alliance Defending Freedom). Much of Johnson’s legal career focused on arguing cases opposing the right to same-sex marriage.
Editorials written by Johnson in the mid-2000s, which were reviewed by CNN, featured language referring to homosexuality as an “inherently unnatural” and “dangerous lifestyle.” Johnson argued that its legalization would lead to a slippery slope culminating in the legal acceptance of pedophilia and the destruction of “the entire democratic system.”
“Homosexual relationships are inherently unnatural and, the studies clearly show, are ultimately harmful and costly for everyone,” Johnson wrote in 2004 in an article supporting a proposed Louisiana constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. “Society cannot give its stamp of approval to such a dangerous lifestyle. If we change marriage for this tiny, modern minority, we will have to do it for every deviant group. Polygamists, polyamorists, pedophiles, and others will be next in line to claim equal protection. They already are. There will be no legal basis to deny a bisexual the right to marry a partner of each sex, or a person to marry his pet.”
Johnson went on to serve in the Louisiana House of Representatives, where he proposed and championed the Marriage and Conscience Act. The legislation, which failed, would have shielded individuals holding “traditional” views on marriage from government action should they act on their sincerely held beliefs. He also proposed legislation that would shield religious pastors who refused to perform same-sex marriages.
As a member of the U.S. Congress, Johnson has authored legislation that would defund schools, libraries, museums, and other federally funded institutions that serve children under the age of 10 if their materials mention or promote gender orientation, sexuality, or LGBTQ issues. The legislation was described as a federal version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
He’s a staunch opponent of gun control
Throughout his tenure in the House, Johnson has opposed virtually all gun control measures brought before the chamber and has co-sponsored and supported bills making it easier for individuals to purchase and carry firearms.
In 2022, Johnson voted against an Assault Weapons Ban, expanded background checks, red flag laws, a higher minimum purchase age, and increased restrictions on the ability of those convicted of domestic abuse to purchase weapons.
In September, Johnson supported a Republican resolution to condemn an emergency order from New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham temporarily banning open and concealed carry in Bernalillo County.
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