Mike Johnson is indeed the Speaker with the shortest parliamentary tenure since... 1883, or 140 years. He has represented Louisiana’s 4th congressional district since January 2017, which is just under seven years. Born in 1972 and a lawyer by training, before being elected to Congress in November 2016, he sat in the state legislature. In the House of Representatives, he was the head of one of the advisory bodies of the parliamentary club, and for the past two years, its vice-chairman.
To the right of Center
What are Johnson’s views? After Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential elections, he was one of the initiators of a petition supporting a motion to invalidate the election results, which he signed along with 125 other congressmen. For this reason, the instigator of the whole turmoil, Congressman Gaetz, believes that the change of Speaker “paid off” because “The Swamp [as Trump and his supporters call the political establishment in Washington – ed. note] is retreating, and the MAGA movement is on the rise,” as evidenced by “MAGA Mike Johnson” becoming Speaker.
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Interestingly, Democrats are also happy, willing to use his conservative views as a stick to beat the Republicans, especially among moderate voters. “It’s a rare and explosive case of a previously untested, very conservative talk show host,” said one Democratic Party spin doctor to Axios, emphasising that the amount of Johnson’s “right-wing rhetoric off the cuff” recorded on paper and tapes exceeds the wildest dreams of Democratic staffers.
Indeed, his views on social issues – pleasing the Right – will be ruthlessly used by Democrats to campaign among the increasingly secularising electorate. Johnson is a staunch opponent of abortion: as a lawyer, he worked for a firm that fought to abolish the legality of abortion introduced based on the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, and in Congress, he advocated for a bill to ban abortion after detecting a foetal heartbeat.
He is decidedly against supporting gender transition for minors and is not a supporter of same-sex marriages. These views are already being attacked by liberal media, and additionally ridiculed by the fact that Johnson admitted he and his 17-year-old son use software that monitors the use of pornography on electronic devices (in case of accessing such a site, the other person is notified).
Johnson has also been criticised for having almost no savings, living effectively – like millions of Americans – from paycheck to paycheck. Although this fact could indicate that this politician – unlike many of his colleagues – does not derive income from suspicious sources.
In other issues – like illegal immigration, taxes, support for Israel – the new Speaker belongs to the right wing of the party. There is also bad news for Ukraine: as a rank-and-file congressman, Johnson opposed increasing military aid to the country.
Johnson’s first decisions as Speaker confirm his right-wing views. Not only did he, contrary to President Biden’s request, separate the decision on aid to Ukraine and Israel, but he also made the latter package ($14.3 billion for Tel Aviv) dependent on identical cuts in the budget of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).
Although the bill was passed, it has no chance of becoming law – the Democrats, who control the Senate, deemed it unacceptable (dead on arrival), demanding the inclusion of funds for Ukraine in these provisions. A compromise may involve linking aid to Kyiv with the issue of strengthening barriers on the border with Mexico, although here the resistance of President Biden’s administration against combining these two issues may be an obstacle.
However, the next few weeks are a real test for Johnson: how to vote through a package of twelve budget bills (as the federal government’s budget consists of that many) in such a way as to get approval from the Senate and President Biden, while not losing the support of conservative congressmen who demand spending cuts.
In the arsenal of the latter is a real atomic bomb: failure to pass the budget on time threatens to stop funding federal programs, which de facto means halting the activities of at least some government agencies and ministries. The federal government has funds to operate only until November 17 (it was for passing this budgetary provisional with the help of Democrats that McCarthy was removed), which forces a quick search for a compromise.