Meet the House's Most Powerful Republican

Lack of baggage helped Mike Johnson rise to the top
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 25, 2023 2:40 PM CDT
Meet the House's Most Powerful Republican
Mike Johnson gestures during voting for the new House speaker, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

House Speaker Mike Johnson's rise from relative obscurity to being the most powerful Republican in the House was a swift one. After more than three weeks without a speaker, House Republicans elected Johnson Tuesday around 16 hours after making him their latest nominee. In a post on X, the conservative lawmaker from Louisiana promised to "restore sanity to a government desperately in need of it." More on the least experienced House speaker in more than a century:

  • Low profile was a plus. As vice chair of the Republican conference, Johnson was considered the No. 5 Republican, but he was little known outside Capitol Hill, the Advocate reports. The 51-year-old was elected to Congress in 2016 and had less "baggage" and fewer enemies than the three previous nominees.

  • He's relatively new to politics. Johnson, the son of a firefighter, represents a Louisiana district that includes Shreveport, where he grew up, Fox News reports. He didn't enter politics until 2015, when he was elected to the state House. Before that, he was an attorney for groups including the Christian advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom. He has said he spent his legal career defending "religious freedom" and "Biblical values," per the Advocate.
  • Republicans rallied behind him. The AP, describing Johnson as "affable and well liked," reports that colleagues quickly rallied behind him after he was nominated Tuesday night. With Republicans keen to move on from the weekslong effort to elect a new speaker, he needed 217 votes and received 220.

  • Controversial positions. The election of Johnson as speaker marks a "hard turn to the right" after the leadership of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, Politico reports. Johnson voted against legalizing same-sex marriage and supports a nationwide abortion ban. He also played a key role in Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election, leading an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit in Texas seeking to overturn the results in four swing states, NBC News reports.
  • He hosts a podcast with his wife. The New York Times reports that Johnson and wife Kelly have been hosting a podcast for around 18 months, featuring what they describe as "analysis of hot topics and current events from a Christian perspective." Johnson has used the podcast to set out his anti-abortion agenda and attack the Trump prosecutions, among other things.
  • A pointed remark from a Democratic lawmaker. The Washington Post reports that when she voted for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, in an apparent reference to Johnson's opposition to same-sex marriage declared, "Happy anniversary to my wife!"
(More Mike Johnson stories.)

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