After three weeks of tumultuous infighting, the Republican party inched closer to a semblance of cohesion with the election of Congressman Mike Johnson as the Speaker of the House last week.
The election comes after the sudden ousting of then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy by a 216-210 vote, with eight Republicans, including Virginia Congressman Bob Good (VA-05), joining forces with the entire Democratic conference.
The GOP floated multiple names to fill McCarthy’s shoes: Jim Jordan (OH-04), Steve Scalise (LA-01), Tom Emmer (MN-06), Byron Donalds (FL-19) all launched bids for the top job. However, in the end, Mike Johnson (LA-04) was the victor to rally support from all factions of the GOP – even receiving backing from Matt Gaetz, the congressman from Florida’s first district who led the charge to remove McCarthy.
So who is Mike Johnson? Here are fifteen things to know about the newly-elected Speaker of the House:
- He was born and raised in Louisiana.
Born in Shreveport, Johnson is the oldest of four. His father was a firefighter, inspiring the now-Speaker to follow in his footsteps. However, after suffering from an incident that left burns on 80% of his body, Johnson was subsequently banned by his parents from continuing.
He graduated from Captain Shreve High School and went on to attend Louisiana State University, where he received a Bachelor of Science in business administration. Johnson eventually earned his J.D. from Louisiana State’s Paul M. Hebert Law School.
- He’s a family man.
Johnson married his wife Kelly, a former schoolteacher turned licensed pastoral counselor, in 1999. The couple have four children: Hannah, Abigail, Jack and Will.
- Before vying for a congressional seat, he served in Louisiana’s House of Representatives.
In February 2015, Johnson ran unopposed in a special election for the 8th District seat in Louisiana’s State House of Representatives when his predecessor, Jeff Thompson, was elected to a state district judgeship.That coming November, Johnson was reelected to the seat in the regularly-scheduled election where he then served until 2016, when he ran for a national Congressional seat, joining the 115th Congress in January 2017.
- He carries an extensive legal background, specializing in constitutional law.
Prior to serving in the Louisiana legislature, Johnson practiced law for nearly 20 years, litigating for many conservative causes. He was a senior attorney and partner at Kitchens Law Firm, provided legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (now Alliance Defending Freedom) and served as chief counsel for the Freedom Guard, a Louisiana nonprofit legal ministry that defends Christian values.
- He is serving his fourth term in Congress.
Johnson was elected to the House of Representatives in December 2016 to serve Louisiana’s Fourth District, where he represents nearly 760,000 constituents. According to his official government website, he won his 2016 election by the largest margin of victory in his district in more than 50 years. He defeated Democrat Marshall Jones, earning 65.2% of the vote.
- His speakership adds to the number of Congressional leaders from the Pelican State.
With Johnson securing the top job in the House, Louisiana can now pride itself on the impressive leadership gains of two of their congressional representatives, as fellow Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise (LA-01) also serves as House Majority Leader.
- He has the backing of Donald Trump.
“I think he’s gonna be a fantastic speaker,” Trump said last Wednesday. The former President expressed that he had not heard “one negative comment about him. Everybody likes him.”
- Critics highlight Johnson’s support of former President Trump in his impeachment hearings.
Former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney has criticized the newly-elected speaker, stating that he is the “the most important architect of the Electoral College objections.” Critics have called him an “election denier” because of his authoring of an amicus brief to the Supreme Court, signed by 125 colleagues, which sought to overturn results from swing states in the 2020 Presidential election.
- He is a man of faith.
It is a well-known fact that Johnson’s evangelical Christian faith is a significant driving force in his views on the role of government. In 2005, he and his wife shared on ABC News “Good Morning America” about their choice to opt for a covenant marriage, vouching for the then newly-passed Marriage Covenant Law in Louisiana. Critics charge that because of his support for same-sex marriage, he is anti-LBGTQ.
- He is a staunch supporter of the pro-life movement.
Johnson has supported many bills that seek to protect life and take measures against abortion. Among the 92 bills he’s sponsored or cosponsored, he has cosponsored the Second Chance at Life Act of 2023, which would require patients to be informed of the possibility of reversing a medication abortion, the Protect the UNBORN Act, which would prohibit the implementation of and use of funds through executive orders to provide access to abortion, and the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2023, which would prohibit funding to clinics that go forward with abortions except in the case of rape, incest, and the mother’s life being in danger.
- His allegiance to the oil industry in Louisiana has labeled him an “energy champion.”
Johnson has approached climate science with a doubtful eye, previously voicing opposition to proposals for a Green New Deal, and to climate bills and amendments in Congress. His critics call him a “skeptic,” pointing to a response at a town hall in Shreveport in 2017 when Johnson expressed: “The climate is changing, but the question is, is it being caused by natural cycles over the span of the Earth’s history? Or is it changing because we drive S.U.V.s? I don’t believe in the latter. I don’t think that’s the primary driver.”
- His voting record shows significant opposition to cannabis reform.
Johnson voted twice against reforms on the state level in the Louisiana legislature. While serving in Congress, he voted against the Medical Marijuana Research Act, the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act, and the SAFE Banking Acts of 2019 and 2021. He abstained twice from voting on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act.
- He hosts a podcast, “Truth be Told,” with his wife.
Available on multiple streaming platforms, in 2022 Johnson started his podcast with his wife Kelly. The two release weekly episodes where they discuss politics and current events from a Christian perspective.
- He sits on the House Armed Services Judiciary Committees.
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Johnson has been vocal about his desire to increase transparency regarding American taxpayer dollars funding Ukraine. After gaining speakership, he was asked whether he supports sending additional aid to Ukraine, to which he responded, “we all do … we are going to have conditions on that so we’re working through.” Furthermore, “we want accountability and we want objectives that are clear from the White House.“
When questioned on his stance over the role of the United States in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Johnson told Fox News on Sunday that the House will push forward a “standalone Israeli funding bill,” emphasizing that aid to Israel is a “pressing and urgent need.”
- His conservative voting record has earned him a 92% rating from the American Conservative Union.
The American Conservative Union lists Speaker Johnson’s strongest issues as: the law and judiciary, regulatory relief, human dignity, energy and the environment, and labor.