Who is Mike Johnson? The new Speaker of the House.

When Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana wanted to make an argument against abortion rights during a Capitol Hill committee hearing last year, he famously got stuck on a witness.

“Do you support the right of a woman who is seconds away from giving birth to a healthy child to have an abortion?” he asked at a Judiciary Committee hearing.

When the witness, dr. Yashica Robinson, a member of the Board of Reproductive Health Physicians, replied that such a situation had never happened, Mr Johnson only doubled down.

“It never happened in your practice, ma’am,” returned Mr. Johnson. “But it happens. How about a baby halfway out of the birth canal? Is abortion allowed then?”

The exchange reflected the MP’s deeply conservative views, particularly on social issues, and his tendency to express them in inflammatory ways.

Mr Johnson, an evangelical Christian who won the presidency on Wednesday with the unanimous support of House Republicans, has also spoken out strongly against homosexuality, calling it “naturally unnatural” and a “dangerous lifestyle” and associating it with bestiality, according to an essay CNN dug it up on Wednesday.

“Experts estimate that gay marriage is a dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic,” he wrote. in one such article from 2004.

The views are in stark contrast to those of most Americans, according to polls that have shown the public overwhelmingly supports gay rights. The sudden rise of Mr. Johnson’s appointment as speaker this week at a depressed and divided House Republican conference underscores the GOP’s shift to the right, which dumped his more mainstream predecessor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.

“If you don’t think the transition from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the rise of this movement and where the power really lies in the Republican Party, then you’re not paying attention,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Florida Republican who caused Mr. McCarthy, he said in an interview on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.

Elected to Congress in 2016, Mr. Johnson, a lawyer and former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, has never chaired a powerful congressional committee or served at the highest level of House leadership. Democrats immediately pounced on the key role he played in congressional efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Mr. Trump for his efforts to interfere in the 2020 election. )

But even more than his denial of the election, Mr. Johnson’s political career has been defined by his religious views.

“I don’t believe there are coincidences,” he said Wednesday in his first House speech as speaker, adding: “I believe God has ordained and allowed each of us to be brought here for this particular moment in time. This is my belief.”

He added that his wife “has spent the last few weeks on her knees praying to the Lord, and is a little exhausted.”

Mr. Johnson, the son of a firefighter and the first in his family to graduate from college, was 12 when his father was burned and disabled in the line of duty.

“All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was fire chief in Shreveport,” Mr. Johnson said Wednesday. But the blast that killed his father, he said, “changed all of our trajectories.”

In Congress, Mr. Johnson voted for a national abortion ban and co-sponsored a 20-week abortion ban that earned him an A-plus rating from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. After the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade last June, he celebrated.

He said millions of unborn children had lost their lives because of what he called a “legal fiction imposed on this country by the Supreme Court” and said “God will bless us” for the court’s decision.

Last year, Mr. Johnson introduced the bill which banned the use of federal funds to provide education to children under the age of 10 that included LGBTQ themes — a proposal that critics called a national version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Mr Johnson called the legislation “common sense”.

He also opposed legislation mandating federal recognition of same-sex marriage – a bill that passed with strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

In the years before he arrived in Congress in 2017, Mr. Johnson worked as a lawyer and spokesman for the anti-abortion rights and anti-gay group Alliance Defense Fund — now called Alliance Defending Freedom. During this time, he expressed some of his hardline views in editorials in local newspapers in his hometown of Shreveport, La.

Writing in 2004 in support of a state amendment banning same-sex marriage, he argued that without it, “there would be no legal basis to deny a bisexual person the right to marry a partner of any gender, or to deny a person the right to marry their pet. ”

Mr. Johnson was only able to emerge as his party’s nominee for speaker this week after three other GOP candidates before him failed to garner enough support. It is unlikely to have happened in any other scenario.

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 Republican in the House and the first to be nominated for speaker after the ouster of Mr. McCarthy, in the end, was considered insufficiently pro-Trump by too many of his colleagues.

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, a founder of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and someone Mr. Johnson described as a mentor, was the next member to be elected chairman in a secret ballot. He had Mr. Trump and the far right in his corner, but ultimately failed to win over more centrist members of his own party who steadfastly refused to support him.

Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the majority whip and third-party presidential candidate, had the biggest problems of any of the presidential candidates who preceded him: The hard right wing of the party rose up to oppose him and former President Donald J. Trump tagged him as a “globalist RINO”.

Mr. Johnson’s rapid rise came as conference members were exhausted and ready to accept someone they did not see as the obvious choice or the party’s natural leader-in-waiting. Instead, he has cleared a lowered bar: they see him as someone conservative enough that they don’t personally despise him.

Mr. Johnson’s hallmark in Congress is combining his hard-line views with a gentle personal style. That was on display Wednesday, when he vowed to try to find common ground with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader.

“I know we see things from different angles, but I know in my heart that you want to do what’s right, so we’ll find common ground there,” he said.

To show his support for racial equality, Mr. Johnson has told audiences in the past that he and his wife adopted a black teenager they met through an evangelical youth group — like the movie “The Blind Side,” but with no NFL prospects, he joked.

He once shared the story with a mostly Democratic audience at a congressional hearing on slavery reparations, and was surprised to hear boos as he spoke, he later told the Council on National Policy, a gathering of conservative donors known for its strict secrecy.

“My feelings were surgically removed back in the 80s,” he joked, according to his words recording of the event, and then suggested that the hearing was packed with Black Panthers who disapproved of miscegenation. (The Black Panther Party disbanded decades ago.)

On Wednesday, Mr. Johnson sought to help Republicans turn the page on the chaos of the past few weeks. He said there would not be the typical celebrations that accompany the election of a new president.

Instead, he quickly moved a resolution expressing solidarity and support for Israel. His next task, he said, will be to resolve what he called the country’s “fractured border” with Mexico. He did not mention the impeachment inquiry into President Biden, or the impending government shutdown that will begin next month if Congress fails to pass legislation to keep government funding.

“These few weeks probably look like total chaos, confusion, no end in sight,” Mr. Emmer, who tried and failed to become speaker, said Wednesday. “But from my perspective, this is one of the greatest experiences in the recent history of our republic.”

Steve Eder contributed to the reporting.

Leave a Comment