Speaker Johnson: Historic & Vital for Louisiana
The ascension of Republican Rep. Mike Johnson to U.S. House Speaker is a stunning development, and seen as a potential boon for Louisiana on several fronts.
Mike Johnson is officially the 56th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in our nation’s history. It is a stunning development that is seen locally as very positive news, not least because of the potential benefits this could mean for Louisiana and its citizens in the not-too-distant future.
Since 2016, The 51-year-old Republican Congressman has represented the 15 parishes of the 4th Congressional District. It accounts for much of the western half of the state. Johnson is seen as a staunch conservative who Republicans unanimously elected as House Speaker Wednesday afternoon [October 25]. In the process, it effectively ended 22 days of chaos since the ouster of then-speaker Kevin McCarthy on October3.
After being sworn in, Johnson spoke before the chamber saying, “The people’s House is back in business.” Johnson relayed a story from his youth, saying as a little kid “all I wanted to be when I grew up was the chief of the fire department in Shreveport.” He is now second-in-line for the presidency. Johnson spoke to the chamber about getting back to work right away. He also cautioned GOP conference members that the recent chaos in selecting a new speaker only served to risk losing America’s trust. “And we have a challenge before us right now to rebuild and restore that trust.”
Colleagues know Rep. Johnson as a staunchly conservative and deeply religious person who is even-keeled, with many friends and few enemies, not to mention the backing of former President Donald Trump, who Johnson defended during Trump’s first impeachment trial in late 2019.The congressman also voted against certifying Joe Biden’s election victory, even after the January 6 attack on the capitol. Yet in 2024 the House he now leads as Speaker will be tasked with certifying the next presidential election. As for Trump, he said of Johnson’s victory, “I think He’s going to be a fantastic speaker.” And according to an Associated Press report on Wednesday, Trump added that Johnson is going to “make us all proud.”
LSU Shreveport Political Science Professor Jeffrey Sadow says the historical significance of Johnson’s ascension creates another first-of-its kind moment – for what this means for the voters back home in Louisiana, referring as well to Rep. Steve Calise, from Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District, which primarily covers New Orleans’ suburbs. “Two people from the same state, one who is speaker of the House, and the other who is the majority leader,” The leader of the party,” Sadow reflected on the significance of that new political alignment, adding, “We’ve never seen this before in the history of the U.S. Congress.”
In fact, Scalise had been the first speaker-designee at the beginning of the process to elect a new speaker from the GOP ranks. But Scalise withdrew his name once it became clear he could not reach the 217 votes needed to become House Speaker. Johnson became the fourth speaker-designee late Tuesday, after Tom Emmer of Minnesota dropped out, as did Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio before him.
Having Johnson and Scalise atop the GOP leadership is very good news for residents here in Johnson’s district, according to Sadow. Reasons include the strong likelihood of solid funding for Barksdale Air Force Base, Fort Johnson, near Leesville, along with funding for projects like I-69 and the Red River Waterway funding. “As speaker of the House, Johnson is basically going to have the final say on just about every decision being made in the House,” as Sadow concluded, “So, he’s going to have a hand, if he so chooses, in practically every one of those.” Johnson is the most junior representative to be elected speaker since John G. Carlisle in 1883.
Johnson becomes the first Louisiana congressman to become speaker and the first Southerner in the position since Newt Gingrich, from 1995 to 1999