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Ladies and gentlemen, we have a speaker

And Mike Johnson is a solid conservative

House Speaker Mike Johnson talks to reporters in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 25. Associated Press/Photo by Jose Luis Magana

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a speaker
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After three weeks, the House of Representatives settled on a speaker of the House. The Republicans finally rallied around U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson of Shreveport, La. The congressman will be the most socially conservative speaker in decades.

Johnson is a Southern Baptist who spent time in the Louisiana House of Representatives before heading to Washington in January 2017. His father was a firefighter who had been critically burned in the line of duty. The family relied heavily on their faith during that time. Johnson grew up and went to LSU and its law school.

After law school, Johnson became a pro-life warrior. He served as a national spokesman and senior lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the organization that represents a lot of Christians in the Supreme Court, including Colorado baker Jack Phillips. Johnson and his wife led pro-life marches in North Louisiana. For eight years, Johnson served as a trustee for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

In the state legislature, Johnson fought aggressively for religious liberty, life, and traditional marriage. He authored religious liberty legislation, even as it failed to pass the state legislature. Gov. Bobby Jindal used Johnson’s legislation as the framework for executive orders protecting faith-based small businesses from persecution by gay rights activists.

Johnson has also been a vocal opponent of common core curricula for public schools. The program, at one time backed nationally by business advocates, sought to put students on common national standards for education. But the program actually made it more difficult for parents to help their children with homework, degraded math education, and disincentivized advanced reading standards. Despite strong business support for the curriculum, Johnson campaigned vocally against it as a parent and helped kill common core in Louisiana.

In 2016, Johnson ran for Congress and won. He has not been there long enough to become a committee chairman or play a role in leadership. He sits on the Judiciary Committee and the Armed Services Committee. Going back to his time in the Louisiana legislature, Johnson has long been considered extremely smart, with a focus on constitutional law.

Can Johnson survive? Most likely he can because there really are no options.

Pundits suggest Johnson will be overwhelmed by the job and out of his league. But his background, demeanor, and reputation suggest he will be smart enough to rely on those around him and seek solid advice. In Louisiana, Johnson is known to have a good sense of humor and to be more accessible than some of his colleagues.

Stepping into the speaker position, however, will be challenging. The nation is about 30 days from another government shutdown. Johnson is believed to want to cut a short-term spending deal that would last until no later than April 15, 2024. During that time, he wants to push the House to go through the regular appropriations process, passing all twelve of the required appropriations bills Congress is supposed to pass but rarely does.

Each of those bills would then go to the Senate and then the House and Senate could negotiate off those bills. Congress, lately, has instead passed continuing resolutions that just increase government spending based on prior budgets. Passing the last short-term continuing resolution provoked the ouster of Kevin McCarthy, a fate Johnson hopes to avoid.

Can Johnson survive? Most likely he can because there really are no options. The moderates do not want to fight and the conservatives think they won the fight, even if they do not get much in terms of legislation to show for it. They got one of their own in office. The media and Democrats will assert Johnson is an election denier. He challenged the results of the 2020 election and pushed litigation before the Supreme Court to throw out the results. Johnson, however, is savvy enough to make the fight about the future, the debt, and the present culture.

What Johnson has going for him is October. We head into the holidays and then into the heart of the presidential election season. This was the year to get anything accomplished. The season of hard sells and aggressive pushes will now give way to retail politics and campaigns. Congressmen will be distracted by re-election. That buys Speaker Mike Johnson, the most prominent federal politician from Louisiana since President Zachary Taylor, more time to stretch his legs and learn the ropes. Nevertheless, he had better hit the ground running.

Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson is a lawyer by training, has been a political campaign manager and consultant, helped start one of the premiere grassroots conservative websites in the world, served as a political contributor for CNN and Fox News, and hosts the Erick Erickson Show broadcast nationwide.

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