Mike Johnson wins the gavel, for now
The House Republican spasm that began with bomb thrower Matt Gaetz’s vendetta against Speaker Kevin McCarthy and saw the conference’s civil war cycle through five leaders in three exhausting weeks seems to have cooled with Wednesday’s election by the unanimous GOP members of new Speaker Mike Johnson (or is it Mike Jackson)?
We were so unfamiliar with this Louisianan from Shreveport that we didn’t know his name or his face before he rose to the top Tuesday night after Speaker-designate Tom Emmer’s tenure died after four hours.
Emmer won the title after he beat eight rivals (including Johnson) who ran after Speaker-designate Jim Jordan was rejected by the GOP members following three failed elections on the House floor, when moderates refused to put the radical second in line to the presidency. Emmer garnered a majority of his Republican peers after five secret ballots, which could have done much more efficiently on a single tally using ranked choice voting. But the right wing balked because Emmer supported gay marriage and accepted Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. Trump also trashed Emmer.
But before Speaker-designate Johnson and Speaker-designate Emmer and Speaker-designate Jordan there was Speaker-designate Steve Scalise. He lasted a full day before quitting when the crazies vowed not to vote for him. We think that brings us up to date.
Johnson just saw his congressional salary jump 28.4% from the rank-and-file annual pay of $174,000 to the speaker’s post of $223,500. In New York politics, that extra money for legislators is called a lulu, and they are so rare in Congress that there are only three in each chamber, two for the majority and one for the minority. In fact, it was us who informed Brooklynites Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries that they were getting raises when they joined the top rung of leadership.
But back to Johnson. Who is this guy who’s only in his fourth term and is now in charge? He is a Trump fan who won his first election in 2016, when Trump won. In 2020, Johnson was the main instigator in the House of a hopeless legal effort to have the courts throw out the Electoral College results in four states won by Biden.
In his speech Wednesday, he pledged to have a resolution in support of Israel be the first matter of business for the House, which did happen, passing with 412-10. But that bipartisan unity will not last long. And neither may Johnson.
The new speaker’s father was a Shreveport firefighter who was badly burned in a 1984 blast that killed another firefighter and who died right before the younger Johnson was elected in 2016. Johnson should honor his dad, and all firefighters, by fully funding the World Trade Center Health Program, which covers the medical bills of first responders and others suffering from 9/11-related illnesses.
He’ll have to deal with aid for Israel and Ukraine and funding of the government for the federal fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. It was McCarthy’s correct deal with the Senate and White House to keep Uncle Sam going that caused Gaetz’s rebellion. We note that Johnson voted to shut down the government.
Johnson will get his own chance in just 22 days, on Nov. 17, which is when McCarthy’s deal expires. He better be careful or his speakership will be very brief.
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