After three weeks of conflict within the Republican Party, the House of Representatives elected an extreme right Trump ally as speaker. Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who previously occupied a minor position in the House leadership, won on a straight party-line vote, backed by 220 Republicans, while 209 Democrats voted for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
While opposition from sizeable groups of Republicans, either outright fascists like the “Gang of Eight” who brought down then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy on October 3, or “moderates” who blocked the election of rabid right-winger Jim Jordan, defeated three previous nominees—House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Jordan and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer—Johnson faced no opposition from either quarter.
He has maintained a relatively low profile since his election to Congress in 2016, representing the Fourth District of Louisiana, centered on the city of Shreveport, and comprising the entire northwest portion of the state, along the borders with Texas and Arkansas. His seven years in the House rank him only 98th in seniority among the 222 Republicans.
Johnson did not join the fascistic House Freedom Caucus, but moved up through the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House, becoming its chairman for a two-year term in 2019. He then took a minor position in the leadership as deputy chair of the Republican Caucus. He was a member of two powerful committees, Judiciary and Armed Services, and held a seat on the Select Committee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, established to counterattack the prosecution of Donald Trump for the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.
The future speaker played a significant role during the period leading up to the mob attack, first helping organize a lawsuit against the half dozen “battleground” states won by Biden, seeking to have the state legislatures overturn the results of the popular vote. The Republican-dominated Supreme Court dismissed the suit without even a hearing. Later Johnson drafted a measure to justify Republican representatives voting not to certify the Biden victory, and some two-thirds of the House Republican caucus, 139 members in all, joined him in that vote, held only hours after Trump’s fascist mob had vacated the Capitol.
Johnson and his backers flatly refused to discuss their campaign to deny Biden’s victory in the 2020 elections. When Johnson was introduced to the media Tuesday night as the Republican nominee for speaker, ABC correspondent Rachel Scott pointed out that he “helped lead the effort to overturn the 2020 election results” and tried to ask him if he stood by that position today.
The Republican representatives around him began to boo the reporter, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise laughed, and North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx screamed, “Shut up! Shut up!” Johnson turned away, declaring, “Next question,” without answering Scott.
Trump backed Johnson’s campaign to become speaker after previously denouncing the candidacy of Tom Emmer, whom he branded a “RINO” and globalist because Emmer had voted to certify Biden’s election, and later supported the passage of a continuing resolution to prevent a shutdown of the federal government on September 30.
It was McCarthy’s agreement with the White House and the Democratic-controlled Senate to pass the continuing resolution that led to the move by the eight fascists to declare the office of speaker vacant, in a vote where all Democrats joined in to remove McCarthy.
Johnson is an evangelical Protestant who vehemently opposes both abortion and homosexuality, which he has branded a perversion. His wife is a lay pastor and the two have recorded a series of podcasts that lay out their extreme religious views.
The new speaker touched on this theme in his acceptance speech, in which he cited “scripture and the Bible,” and declared “God has allowed us to be brought here to this specific moment and time.” He cited the action of the House in 1962 to emboss the words “In God We Trust” above the House chamber, adding, “This motto was placed here as a rebuke of the Cold War-era philosophy of the Soviet Union. That was Marxism and Communism, which begins with the premise there is no God.”
Citing the words of author G. K. Chesterton that “America is the only nation in the world that is founded upon a creed,” he continued, “All men are created equal, not born equal, created equal and endowed by the same inalienable rights: life, liberty, pursuit of happiness.”
This is an utter distortion of the famous language of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, who also wrote of the “wall of separation” between church and state being the basis of American political organization.
Significantly, Johnson made a series of conciliatory gestures towards the Democratic Party. He made no mention of the initial steps toward an impeachment of President Biden, which McCarthy had permitted to go forward in a desperate effort to appease the fascists and save his job. Nor did he refer to the 2020 election as “stolen” or suggest that Biden’s presidency was illegitimate.
And he offered to establish a bipartisan commission on the federal debt, calling it “the greatest threat to our national security,” now passing $33.6 trillion. He called the debt “unsustainable,” and said that reducing it “won’t be an easy task and tough decisions have to be made.” The commission was initially proposed by the Democrats during the debt ceiling crisis earlier this year.
Most importantly, from the standpoint of the Biden White House, he did not repeat his prior position of opposing further US military and economic aid to Ukraine, the central part of Biden’s request for a supplemental military appropriation of $105 billion for the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and the preparations for war against China.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries made Ukraine a major focus of his speech after the election of Johnson. While hailing the bipartisan consensus on further aid to Israel to enable its mass slaughter in Gaza, he added, “We must also support Ukraine and its courageous effort to defeat Russian aggression.
“There are only two paths in front of us. We can either stand up for Ukraine, or bow down to Vladimir Putin.”
He continued, “It is my expectation that in the next week or so the Senate will send over for consideration a bipartisan national security funding package for Israel, Ukraine, and our other allies throughout the free world… The House of Representatives should take up this national security package and humanitarian relief package immediately in totality, and without delay.”
The Democrats accommodated themselves to the new speaker, voting near-unanimously for the first bill he put on the floor of the House, a resolution of support for Israel in its war in Gaza, which passed 412–10, with nine Democrats and one Republican voting against it. Six Democrats voted “present.”
Meanwhile, Trump’s closest supporters in the House gloated over the result of their efforts over the past three weeks. Representative Matt Gaetz, speaking on the podcast of Trump’s fascist former adviser Steve Bannon, said, “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.”