Sunday, October 29, 2023

The challenge Johnson faces is the same as what McCarthy faced- holding the GOP caucus together!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair

     On Wednesday October 25th Rep. Mike Johnson, (R-LA) was elected the 56th Speaker of the U.S. House on the fourth ballot of voting.   He received 220 votes- 217 are required for election.  Johnson was the 4th Republican nominee after the successful motion to vacate the speakership of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA). Johnson is the second least experienced Speaker in U.S. history.  He has served in the House just 6 years and 10 months.  Three observations:

     First, who is Speaker of the House Mike Johnson?  He is a Louisiana lawyer.  He served two years in the Louisiana legislature before being elected to Congress.  He is the first Speaker from the Bayou state.  Johnson worked in private practice and founded Freedom Guard; a nonprofit legal ministry designed to represent Christian clients in lawsuits. 

    Johnson, 51, has served as vice chairman of the Republican caucus.  He has been a member of the Judiciary and Armed Services committees.  He is a past chair of the Republican Study Committee, a conservative group of House members.  Rep. Kevin Hern, (R-OK) is the current chair. 

     Johnson is a Southern Baptist.  He and his wife have been married for 24 years and have four children.  He has said, ‘my faith informs everything I do.”  He and his wife co-host a podcast ‘Truth be Told,’ in which they discuss public affairs from a Christian perspective.  In an interview with Sean Hannity after his Speaker election, Johnson said he believes in the core values of American conservatism; individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets and human dignity. 

     Second, what will Speaker Johnson do?  The duties of the Speaker of the House are outlined in the U.S. Constitution.  They preside over the House, maintain order and govern the administration of House business.  The challenge Johnson faces is the same as what McCarthy faced- holding the GOP caucus together to get anything accomplished.  The nation is in the midst of a budget crisis with the Continuing Resolution (CR) expiring in less than three weeks.  Johnson has said he would start by negotiating with President Biden and Senate Democrats about funding bills.  He has floated the idea federal funding be cut by -8%. 

     Johnson also favors changing House rules to make it more difficult to remove the Speaker.  He supports helping Ukraine and Israel.  He wants Congress to be consulted before use of military force in the middle east.  If the Republican House caucus unifies and stays together, they could get concessions from Biden and Senate Democrats and actually govern. 

     Third, what will the Crazy Eight do?  The eight so-called Republicans who voted with the Democrat minority to remove McCarthy can sabotage Johnson.  With a razor thin majority, the tail (the Crazy Eight) can once again wag the dog.  There is no evidence the Crazy Eight learned a lesson in the last three weeks.  Don’t expect them to now be team players.  Expect them to disrupt, derail and to not cooperate  with the other 200 plus GOP members. 

     Johnson appears to be a principled conservative.  The task before him is getting  the 221 Republican caucus members to stay together.  It’s herding cats time.  Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce or create something.  Republicans struggle to do that.  It’s past time to pull on the same end of the rope at the same time.  Playing tug of war with ourselves ain’t working.

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