Who is he, Michael Johnson - the new speaker?


Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call / AP

Now, everyone is primarily concerned with several questions related to his persona: how he will influence the US presidential election in 2024 and the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine.

But let’s start with how he became Speaker, managing to take the position. After the resignation of Republican Kevin McCarthy, the post of Speaker was unoccupied for three weeks. So, last Wednesday, October 25, 220 Republicans finally voted for Johnson, while his rival Hakeem Jeffries received only 209 votes.

Steve Scalise and Jim Jordan, who were previously considered as candidates for speaker, did not get the required number of votes. Republicans and Trump have relied on Johnson, who, after his election, said in completely American cowboy style, «We want our allies around the world to know that this legislature is working again. Let the enemies of freedom around the world hear us loud and clear: the House of Representatives is back in business». Now it remains to find out what business?

Well, three weeks of chaos and paralysis of one of the power structures of the United States resulted in Johnson becoming Speaker. As Bloomberg wrote, in a political crisis, Johnson suddenly turned out to be a convenient candidate for both Republicans and Democrats. House Republican member Kat Cammack also said: «Things are pretty tough right now, so we need someone who can get along with everybody».

But let’s take a close look at Johnson’s biography and try to conclude: can he get along with everyone? It is absolutely certain, in my opinion, that he will not get along with LGBT and ultra-liberal supporters.

What do we know about Johnson, the third person in the US power structure?

He’s 51 years old, Republican, represents Louisiana. He graduated from the University of Louisiana in 1995 with a degree in business administration, and in 1998 he received a doctorate in law from the University of Louisiana. After graduation, Johnson worked at several law firms, handling cases involving the right to life and religious liberty. From 2004 to 2012, he served on the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Has served in the Louisiana House of Representatives, where he was vice-chairman of the legal committee. He has taken a hard-line stance against abortion and same-sex marriage, and promoted the Marriage and Conscience Act, which was deemed discriminatory against LGBT people. Johnson is a right-wing Christian conservative.

In articles published in the Louisiana newspaper The Times, Johnson called homosexuality an «inherently unnatural and dangerous lifestyle» that would lead to the legalization of pedophilia and possibly even destroy «the entire democratic system». In another editorial, he wrote: «Your race, religion and gender are who you are, while homosexuality and dressing differently are what you do. This is a free country, but we don’t give special protection to every person’s queer choices».

In Congress, Johnson sits on the Judiciary and Armed Services committees. A strong supporter of Trump. In the 2022 election, he was among the Republicans supporting a Texas lawsuit to overturn election results in states where Democrats won by a narrow margin. Incidentally, Trump thanked Johnson at the time, saying he would make a «fantastic speaker». As it turns out, Trump turned out to be a prophet. About the speaker — he was right, but fantastic or not, time will tell.

In short, the character is Nordic, ruthless to gays and enemies of conservative values.

His main challenge is the passage of the budget and the issues of support for Israel and Ukraine. About Israel, his position is crystal clear, Johnson called the country the main U.S. ally in the Middle East. The new speaker zealously supports Israel and believes the U.S. should rid the Middle East of Hamas. «The Middle East and Eastern Europe are gripped by chaos and violence. As we all know, tensions continue to rise in the Indo-Pacific. Our nation’s greatest ally in the Middle East is under attack. The first bill I intend to bring to the floor soon will be to support our dear friend Israel. We should have done this long ago», Johnson emphasized in his first statement. Note that not a single word is said about Ukraine. It simply goes through the comma together with the Indo-Pacific region.

The very next day, October 26, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution of support for Israel with 410 votes in favor. This resolution has no legislative force, but it showed the vector of movement of the House of Representatives.

As for Ukraine, his position is somewhat different. As you know, the White House has requested $100 billion in emergency funding, of which $61 billion is to support Ukraine. So: Johnson is quite actively against aid to Ukraine, having previously voted against the new tranches. He has always voted against most bills related to the financing of the Kiev regime, and also allowed himself «anti-Ukrainian» statements.

In particular, in social network X he wrote: «American taxpayers sent Ukraine more than $100 billion in aid last year. They have a right to know whether the Ukrainian government is being completely candid and transparent about the use of this huge amount of taxpayer resources». So it’s clear that he, like many Republicans, wants transparency in reporting on where Americans’ money has gone and how Ukraine is spending it. And it is clear that from now on there will be no more such endless and uncontrolled gifts to Ukraine.

If from the beginning of the special military operation Johnson was in favor of sanctions against Moscow and wrote that «America supports Ukraine», then in May 2022 he voted among 57 Republicans against the first tranche of additional aid to Ukraine of $40 billion dollars. He released a statement saying, «We should not be sending another $40 billion overseas without oversight when our own border is in chaos, American mothers can’t buy baby food, gasoline prices are at record highs, and American families are barely making ends meet».

Biden’s attempt to combine aid to Israel and Ukraine into a single bill was particularly irritating to a significant portion of Republicans. So now we’ll see if Johnson will bring the unified aid bill to a vote. For now, according to Johnson, the issues of allocating aid to Ukraine and Israel should be considered separately, not as a package, Bloomberg reports, «and to receive further support, Kiev will have to account for the money that has already been spent». Also, Michael Johnson said Congress wants to scrutinize aid to Ukraine. And that’s a red flag for Mr. Zelensky.

No, of course, it would be naive to believe that Johnson would abandon his support for Ukraine entirely when he becomes Speaker. But knowing his sentiments, it is easy to assume that now all aid will be monitored, and the time of uncontrolled money for Mr. Zelensky will be a thing of the past.

One may wonder: how significant is the figure of the speaker and how can he influence political processes? One should take into account that the Speaker of the House of Representatives plays a crucial role and is often considered the most powerful figure in Congress. He can unilaterally set the agenda for the House of Representatives to implement his own political program, and he also decides what rules apply to individual issues. And the fact that Johnson will support Ukraine is not at all obvious.

Johnson may also play an important role during the presidential campaign for the 2024 election. As Speaker of the House of Representatives, it will depend on him how many donations the Republicans will attract. For now, he is actively attacking Biden, which, of course, is in Trump’s favor. For example, in an interview with Fox News, the new Speaker of the House pointed to President Biden’s diminished cognitive functions. When asked by the reporter, «Do you see signs of mental decline in Joe Biden? And if so, can that be considered a threat to the country?» Johnson did not hesitate to state, «It’s a matter of age and mental acuity. Everything is individual, people age differently. But obviously, if you compare Biden’s speeches to the Senate Judiciary Committee a couple years ago to his current speeches, the difference is striking. Again, I don’t mean to insult him in any way, but that’s the reality. That is what scares us. In the current situation, we cannot give the impression of weakness on the world stage. We are living in a dangerous time. Look at everything that is happening in the world — we live like on a volcano. A strong America is a great boon to the world, and we must radiate strength».

By and large, it’s a verdict from the new Speaker to Biden and full support for Trump if he manages to break through in the presidential election.