After three weeks it appears Congress has finally chosen a House Speaker: Mike Johnson of Louisiana. If you’ve never heard of him, don’t despair. Almost nobody has. He’s only 51 years old and first arrived in Congress in the 2016 election.
So why him? Well, a couple of reasons. First, Trump likes him; that’s pretty important. The last few weeks have shown that Trump can’t anoint a speaker (Jim Jordan) but he can shoot one down (Tom Emmer). Also, and equally important, he hasn’t done anything to piss off his fellow Republicans. The last few weeks have shown House Republicans sometimes act like rivals at a 3rd grade lunch table with all the petty grudges and silly hurt feelings.
I have to confess I’m a little troubled by this selection. It’s true that Congress can now get back to work on support for Ukraine, Israel and keeping the government running. But Mike, like Kevin McCarthy before him, sits under a sword of Damocles because any one member of the House can call for a “motion to vacate,” essentially call for a vote of no confidence. Again he can afford to lose only four votes before we do this all again.
Essentially, other than a new person in the speaker’s seat, nothing has changed. Several Republicans have voiced opposition to ongoing support for Ukraine and the Republicans who opposed McCarthy were (among other things) unhappy that he worked with Democrats to vote on September 30th to keep the government running until November 17th.
So what does Mike bring to the table? Good question.
The role of Speaker of the House requires a great deal of knowledge. There are countless rules and customs around how legislation passes, how committee assignments are made, et. There is a steep learning curve and it’s not a job for legislative novices.
Frankly I fear Speaker Johnson will enjoy a short honeymoon and once the far right Republicans who drove out McCarthy start resharpening their claws, well…