SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Democrats were quick to condemn Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), the long-awaited pick of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives to be their new speaker.
Johnson, a fourth-term lawmaker and a constitutional lawyer, was selected as House Speaker by a 220-209 party-line vote on Oct. 25, ending nearly three weeks of stalemate in Washington.
That same day, Utah Democratic Party Chair Diane Lewis roundly criticized Johnson’s selection.
“Mike Johnson will be the most extreme speaker of the House in history,” Lewis said in a prepared statement. “His deeply unpopular MAGA agenda will be an absolute disaster for Utah families.”
Lewis was echoing President Joe Biden’s habit of turning former President Donald Trump’s catch-phrase MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) into the equivalent of a swear word associated with political and social extremism.
“(Johnson) won his party’s vote by passing every MAGA litmus test,” according to Lewis, “leading efforts to overturn the 2020 election, proposing a national abortion ban and calling to slash Social Security and Medicare for thousands of Utah seniors.”
Johnson’s elevation to the speaker’s role ended weeks of Republican infighting that sank three other hopefuls before him.
Those previous nominees were firebrand Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH); House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, also from Louisiana; and Majority Whip Tom Elmer (R-MN), who withdrew his name from contention just hours before the House floor vote on Oct. 25.
“Let the enemies of freedom around the world hear us load and clear,” Johnson said in a speech after accepting the House gavel. “The people’s House is back in business.”
Johnson represents the city of Shreveport and western portion of Louisiana, including Barksdale Air Force Base.
He has been a vocal advocate of key GOP issues during his tenure in Congress – including the defense of Trump — making it easier for the two wings of the Republican Party to accept him in the role of speaker.
He has been a member of the Judiciary and Armed Services committees in Washington.
In that latter role, Johnson has pushed for growing the U.S. defense budget, including veterans’ benefits.
Like Lewis, House Democrats who voted en masse against Johnson were particularly critical of his efforts to undermine the results of the 2020 election.
Johnson led 125 fellow House members in filing an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit to throw out election results in swing states that voted for Biden in 2020. That effort was later rejected by the Supreme Court.
Along with many of his Republican allies, Johnson also later objected to certifying the 2020 election results from key states after the Capitol Hill riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
While acknowledging that the challenges facing the U.S. House are great, Johnson promised his GOP colleagues that he would not let them down in his acceptance speech of Oct. 25.
Capitol Hill observers are still debating how Johnson’s stepping up the House speakership will impact the 2024 election, but Lewis confidently promised a reckoning at that time.
“Come November 2024,” she predicted, “Utah Republicans like Blake Moore, John Curtis and Burgess Owens will have to answer to Utahns for putting their extreme MAGA agenda ahead of Utah families.”