New Speaker of the House gives Republicans an edge

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives elected Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House, following nearly a month of the vacant position. The change in leadership comes as government funding is set to expire on Nov. 17, and a possible shutdown looms.

Johnson was elected with 220 votes, supported by every present Republican but no Democrats. This unification is a change of pace for House Republicans, who struggled for weeks to assemble a required majority behind one candidate after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted via a “motion to vacate” led by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz on Oct. 3. This marked the first time in American history that a Speaker of the House was removed via this procedure.

Many fear that Johnson’s election is an omen of further division within the House and makes unity across the aisle more difficult, while others still have hope.

Johnson, who has mostly kept a low profile throughout his tenure in Congress, appeals to both hardline conservatives due to his policy positions and moderates because he is less controversial compared to more outspoken conservative figures like Rep. Jim Jordan. However, many moderate Republicans side with Democrats in finding Johnson’s political history alarming. 

Their concerns include supporting former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, being staunchly pro-life with support for a national abortion ban and a record of opposition to same-sex marriage. Johnson has a long history of being fervently against the latter in particular, as he frequently wrote on the subject during his time as a Louisiana lawyer in the 2000s. Johnson wrote an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, in support of criminalizing consensual sex between same-sex couples. 

Johnson recently described his positions in further detail on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, saying, “I respect the rule of law. When the Supreme Court issued the Obergefell opinion, that became the law of the land.” Johnson said that while he’s a “Bible-believing Christian,” he loves all people. 

Last year, Johnson introduced the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act,” a bill that aimed to prohibit federal funds for “any sexually-oriented program, event, or literature” in public schools for children under the age of 10. There are also nonspecific references to banning events and literature related to LGBTQ+ subjects that apply to federally funded libraries as well as some sexual education curriculums. Johnson is staunchly opposed to gender-affirming care for transgender minors, labeling it as “adults inflicting harm on helpless children to affirm their world view.” Critics of these positions say they are rooted in anti-queer beliefs. Johnson is also opposed to aid to Ukraine, among other issues.

Johnson has received a tide of praise from many conservatives, including Republican frontrunner and former President Trump. Republicans hope the new speaker can increase Republican support ahead of 2024 when every House seat and 33 Senate seats will be up for election.

Many fear that Johnson’s election is an omen of further division within the House and makes unity across the aisle more difficult, while others still have hope. Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said that Johnson “appears to be an extreme right-wing ideologue,” though he affirmed that Democrats would be open to collaborating with him on bipartisan initiatives. 

Johnson shared this sentiment when he addressed Jeffries in his first remarks as speaker, stating, “I know we see things from 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.”


Featured photo courtesy of Martin Falbisoner, Wikipedia