Speaker Mike Johnson: “The People’s House is Back in Business”

Speaker Mike Johnson: “The People’s House is Back in Business”

After three chaotic weeks, House Republicans elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as the new Speaker of the House. The fourth to win a majority vote within the Republican Conference, he was the first with enough support to get a majority of the whole House. Today he won with all 220 Republicans present voting for him. Deep divisions remain within the Republican party and between Republicans and Democrats, but as Johnson said today, at least the House is back in business.

A hardline conservative now second in line for the Presidency, the 51-year-old Johnson is less well known than other ultra-conservatives like Matt Gaetz (R-FL) or Jim Jordan (R-OH), but their policy positions are not much different. Johnson is more genial, however, and perhaps better positioned to work with the many different factions of his party. Jordan failed to get enough Republicans to vote for him on the House floor three times last week, losing more support each time with 25 voting against him at the end. No Republicans voted against Johnson.

An evangelical Christian, Johnson invoked God and faith several times during his acceptance speech as he stressed Republican priorities like protecting the border and reducing the debt. But he avoided confrontation or rancor. He and Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) even began their new relationship as party leaders on a positive note. As tradition goes, Jeffries introduced the new Speaker and handed him the gavel. Jeffries promised to work to find common ground “whenever and wherever possible.” Johnson agreed.

Screengrab from C-SPAN.

First, a few words of gratitude. I want to thank Leader Jeffries. I do look forward to working with you on behalf of the American people. I know we see things from very different points of view. But I know that in your heart you love and care about this country and you want to do what’s right, and so we’re going to find common ground there, all right?

The two even hugged briefly as the gavel passed.

Incoming House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) gets a hug from Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) as Jeffries hands Johnson the gavel. Screengrab from C-SPAN.

At the end of his speech, Johnson declared: “The People’s House is back in business.”

For the first time in three weeks, the House could finally pass legislation. The first order of business was passing a resolution in support of Israel.

Johnson had said passing appropriations bills would be a top priority and later today they turned to the Energy-Water appropriations bill. The House had been scheduled to take it up back on October 3, the day Gaetz threw a wrench into the works by moving to oust Kevin McCarthy in part because he’d worked with Democrats to pass the Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government operating through November 17.

Johnson voted against the CR, but now is taking a more moderate line. In a Dear Colleague letter sent to Republicans while he was trying to win their support and published by the Washington Examiner, he provided a timeline of action that includes passing another CR that would last through “January 15 or April 15 (based on what can obtain Conference consensus).” That’s good news for government-funded space programs and the companies who rely on the government as a partner or customer, but time will tell what can pass the House.

As for the individual bills, the House already passed four, including DOD, albeit largely on party lines. Johnson’s timetable calls for Transportation-HUD, which includes the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, to come up next week and the Commerce-Justice-Science bill that includes NASA and NOAA the week of November 6 (it has not yet been reported from committee). He wants all 12 passed by the end of November.

A member of the House Armed Services Committee, Johnson also has finishing the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act on his list of priorities. The bill is in conference and he envisions completing negotiations on the final version in December.

How long today’s comity within the House Republican Conference never mind between the parties will last is an open question.

That’s especially true between Republicans and Democrats. Multiple media reports note that Johnson supports the lie that former President Trump won the 2020 election and was an architect of House Republican opposition to certifying the 2020 election results.  A constitutional lawyer, he was one of the House Republicans on Trump’s defense team during his Senate impeachment trial in January 2020. Trump endorsed his election as Speaker.

The Democratic National Committee calls him an “architect of Trump’s Big Lie, anti-abortion extremist, Trump footsoldier, and former Republican Study Committee chairman and hellbent on slashing Social Security and Medicare.”

But the good news is the U.S. government is fully back in business today.

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