Three weeks after ousting former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from his post, the full House on Wednesday elected Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) as its new speaker. (UBS)

Finally, a Speaker. Three weeks after ousting former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from his post, the full House on Wednesday elected Congressman Mike Johnson (R-LA) as its new speaker. Other than being the most googled man in America this week, who is Mike Johnson? He’s a 51-year-old congressman from western Louisiana who serves on the House Judiciary and Armed Services committees. He is a constitutional lawyer by trade. In nine years of public service (combined at the federal and state levels), he has focused largely on social issues, including religious liberty, abortion and same-sex marriage. He is affable, soft-spoken and well-liked by his colleagues. He is a solid conservative, but he is not considered an activist. His pleasant demeanor and approachable style certainly were big reasons why all House Republicans rallied around him this week.

He does not check all the boxes for the qualifications needed to become a perfect speaker, but maybe someone with a lower profile is needed at this time to lead House Republicans.

Now for the Hard Part. Most House Democrats have criticized the new Speaker for his past record on social issues and for defending former President Trump’s claims of election fraud in the aftermath of the 2020 election. Across the aisle, House Republicans will curb their infighting for the time being and give the Speaker a chance to succeed. The Speaker will have to immediately tackle the challenge of approving government funding legislation to avert a shutdown on November 18. He will try to get an extension of that deadline into January to give himself more time to work on a year-long funding bill that he will need to negotiate with Senate Democrats and the White House. That will be the tricky part. A bipartisan compromise with the Senate and President Biden is unlikely to go over well with restless conservative Republicans in the House that are eager for spending cuts and budget reforms.

Speaker Johnson will have to walk a tight wire in trying to pass a bipartisan compromise that doesn’t enrage his Republican colleagues. How he will achieve this is completely unknown at this time.

Mike Johnson’s Future. Speaker Johnson will be subject to the same recall rules that antagonists used to oust former Speaker McCarthy earlier this month. Any one member of Congress can call for a vote to remove him, even from among his Republican colleagues. Those colleagues will give the new Speaker the benefit of the doubt for a short time, but he won’t have a long honeymoon. He has to somehow placate three factions among House Republicans (moderates, traditional conservatives and more insurgent conservatives) at a time when there is great distrust and frustration among the three. There is no magic script for Johnson to follow, and he has never before been in this type of leadership role in Congress.

He may turn into a star and a mainstay among House Republicans for many years or he may be subject to a recall in the next few months.

Opening Act. After his swearing-in on Wednesday night, the first item that the Speaker brought to the full House was a resolution condemning the Hamas attack against Israel. He then had the House turn to a government funding bill focused on energy and water programs (one of 12 individual bills on government funding), which was approved last night. When the aid package for funding for Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan and the southwest border comes over from the Senate (possibly in one package, though the southwest border aid may be omitted), he will break that bill up and vote on the aid to Israel separately. That will pass on a bipartisan basis, as should the aid for Taiwan, but funding for Ukraine and the southwest border will be subject to more scrutiny.

The Speaker will then have to negotiate a measure to extend government funding in mid-November, and this is where his negotiating skills, mettle and ability to keep his Republican colleagues in line will be tested.

For more, see the full Washington Weekly , 27 October, 2023.

Approval Date: 10/27/2023

Expiration: 10/31/2024

Review Code: IS2306428