All eyes are on Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), the 51-year-old whose election to be the 56th Speaker on Wednesday put an end to the over three weeks of turmoil and GOP infighting in the lower chamber.
Johnson, who was serving his second term as vice chair of the House Republican Conference, won the Speaker’s gavel in a 220-209 party-line vote over Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday, more than three weeks after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was booted from the top spot.
Johnson was nominated by his colleagues in a closed-door meeting Tuesday night, just hours after House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) withdrew his bid amid conservative opposition. Emmer was the third Speaker nominee the Republican conference had put up since McCarthy’s ouster.
As he prepares to reopen the House to its normal functions, Johnson’s stance on a variety of issues has comes under a microscope.
Here are five things to know about Johnson:
Johnson has opposed Ukraine aid
Speaker-elect Mike Johnson (R-La.) is sworn in by the Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) to be the fifty sixth Speaker of the House in the House Chamber on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
Johnson was one of 57 Republicans to vote “no” on a $40 billion aid package to Ukraine.
He later told the Shreveport Times, “We should not be sending another $40 billion abroad when our own border is in chaos, American mothers are struggling to find baby formula, gas prices are at record highs, and American families are struggling to make ends meet, without sufficient oversight over where the money will go.”
Ukraine has been a divisive subject with Republicans, with a majority in the party favoring sending Ukraine aid for its war with Russia, but a number of conservatives saying no more money should be sent to Kyiv.
Johnson gave statements backing support for Ukraine shortly after the invasion, but he’s since voted against aid.
He was one of 117 Republicans who voted “no” on a stand-alone bill to provide $300 million in aid to Ukraine — a total that was stripped from the Pentagon funding bill ahead of a potential government shutdown last month.
Johnson has been quick to express support for money for Israel, another issue he’ll have to deal with quickly as Speaker.
Israel and Ukraine could become intertwined in Congress in the wake of President Biden’s $100 billion emergency funding request to Congress that includes military assistance for both countries as well as border funding.
Johnson pushed to overturn 2020 election results
Almost immediately after the 2020 election, Johnson emerged as a supporter of then-President Trump’s unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him.
Days after the 2020 election, Johnson wrote on X, then known as Twitter, “I have just called President Trump to say this: ‘Stay strong and keep fighting, sir! The nation is depending upon your resolve. We must exhaust every available legal remedy to restore Americans’ trust in the fairness of our election system.”
Later in 2020, Johnson led an amicus brief signed by 100 House Republicans supporting a Texas lawsuit that aimed to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. After the brief was introduced, Johnston posted to X, “President Trump called me this morning to let me know how much he appreciates the amicus brief we are filing on behalf of Members of Congress. Indeed, this is a big one!’”
Johnson was also one of 139 House Republicans who later voted to object to the election results in Arizona, Pennsylvania or both, shortly after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol.
A reporter Tuesday night tried to ask Johnson about his involvement in attempts to overturn the 2020 election; multiple GOP members flanking their Louisiana colleague began to laugh, and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) yelled “shut up.”
Johnson smiled, shook his head and said, “Next question.”
Johnson is an ally of Trump
Former President Donald Trump returns to the courtroom after a break in his civil business fraud trial at New York Supreme Court, Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2023, in New York. The judge in Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial has fined the former president $10,000. The judge says Trump violated a limited gag order barring personal attacks on court staffers.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Johnson has also come out as a vocal critic of the mounting legal battles against Trump, arguing the former president and “disfavored” Republicans have been targeted by legal and political systems.
“In America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. Unless you’re Donald Trump or one of the disfavored Republicans targeted by Democrats,” Johnson wrote on X in March.
Johnson serves on the House Judiciary’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government and has used discussion of President Biden and his family’s alleged foreign business dealings to call out the “bogus” charges against Trump, which include a case from the special counsel Jack Smith over Trump’s efforts to overturn the election.
“The evidence of corruption against Joe Biden and his family is political scandal much larger than Watergate. And yet they are pursuing more bogus charges against President Trump!” Johnson wrote in a post on X in June.
Johnson voted against the recent bill to keep the government open
Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) votes for himself for Speaker in the House Chamber on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
The pressure is now on Johnson to either tackle the House’s series of unresolved appropriations funding bills or to pass a longer continuing resolution to keep the government open past the Nov. 17 deadline for a shutdown.
Shortly before the House was sent into chaos without a Speaker, then-Speaker McCarthy brought to the House floor a “clean” short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR) that averted a government shutdown just hours before funding was set to run out.
Johnson was among the 90 Republicans who voted in opposition of the CR, though it still passed in a largely bipartisan 335-91 vote.
In his “Dear Colleague” letter to the Republican conference, Johnson pushed for the House to pass all 12 of its appropriations measures.
“I am confident we can work together to accomplish that objective quickly, in a manner that delivers our principled commitments to rein in wasteful spending and put our country back on a path to fiscal responsibility,” Johnson wrote in the letter.
In the interest of time, Johnson said he would like to reach a consensus and discharge the appropriations bills for the departments of Labor; Health and Human Services; and Education and Commerce, Justice, and Science from the appropriations committee, while laying out a calendar schedule to consider the bills on the floor.
Johnson said if another stopgap measure is needed, he would propose a measure that expires Jan. 15 or April 15 “to ensure the Senate cannot jam the House with a Christmas omnibus.”
Johnson has a good relationship with conservatives
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) leaves a House Republican Conference meeting on Monday, October 9, 2023 where they discussed rules for the Motion to Vacate and the race for Speaker of the House.
Johnson’s relationship with fiscal conservatives and other Republicans who had made McCarthy’s job difficult appears to be off to a good start, given his unanimous support Wednesday.
“We have a very busy agenda. We have appropriations bills to get through the process. But you will see this group working like a well-oiled machine,” Johnson said Tuesday night.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), who led the effort to oust McCarthy, said “it was worth it” when asked about Johnson’s nomination Tuesday night.
“We adore him, and I think he’s gonna do a great job for the country and for the right reasons. Mike Johnson has not bought and paid for. Mike Johnson does what is right,” Gaetz said.
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) echoed Gaetz’s comments, writing in a statement on X: “We told the American people they deserved someone who would be honest and represent their interests, not Washington’s. There is no denying this was a difficult process, but one that was well worth it.”
Rep. Tim Burchett (Tenn.), one of the eight Republicans who ousted McCarthy, said Johnson is a “good man who answers to the people” and said he was proud to vote for Johnson.
Conservative firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), a close ally of McCarthy, voted for Johnson on Wednesday after previously noting she wanted assurances that the candidates would pursue impeachment inquiries into Biden and other top Cabinet officials.
In a post on X shortly after the vote, Greene posted a photo with Johnson, congratulating the Louisiana Republican.
Tara Suter contributed.