Mike Johnson's election as Speaker perceived as Trump's unassailable control over GOP

Mike Johnson's election as Speaker perceived as Trump's unassailable control over GOP


T.N. Ashok

Washington, Oct 26 (IANS) Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson ascendancy to the Speaker's post on Wednesday after a three week logjam that saw three prominent Republicans fall by the wayside in the crucial vote demonstrates former US President Donald Trump's unassailable sway over most of the GOP members, US media reports said.

Mike Johnson's ascent to be Speaker of the US House of Representatives proves Trump's sway over the Republican Party and "MAGA is ascendant", the Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, who ousted Kevin McCarthy as Speaker early October, said. He used the Trump acronym for his campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again".

"The swamp is on the run, MAGA is ascendant and if you don't think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to Maga Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement, and where the power of the Republican Party truly lies, then you're not paying attention," Gaetz told the former Trump campaign chair and White House strategist Steve Bannon on his podcast on Wednesday.

It was Gaetz who precipitated three weeks of leaderless chaos inside the Republican Party leading to the House getting paralysed, unable to pass any crucial legislation like funding for Israel and Ukraine with a Protem Speaker Patrick Henry in the chair, the Guardian said.

Seven Republicans had joined Gaetz in voting out McCarthy, the first Speaker ever evicted by his own party in American Congress history.

During three weeks of chaos in the House with stubborn 22 Republican strong holdouts opposing all three nominees -- Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan and Tom Emmer -- Trump's social media post that Mike Johnson was the right fit for the Speaker's chair did the trick in getting him elected, media reports say.

Though firebrand election denier Jim Jordan lost, Mike Johnson embodied the same beliefs to be accepted by Trump and holdouts not to oppose him but end the uncertainties of the House once and for all. Mike Johnson's emergence as the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives has earned the relatively little-known Louisiana Republican a turn in the national spotlight, The Guardian noted, saying that spotlight has illuminated positions and remarks many deem extreme.

Mike Johnson, like Jim Jordan tried to turn the 2020 election verdict that elected Joe Biden of Democrats as the President. 

"In the modern Republican Party, supporting Donald Trump's lie about the role of voter fraud in his defeat by Joe Biden is hardly an outlandish position. But Johnson took it further, "The Guardian said in its commentary on the outcome of the Speaker's election."

Mike Johnson is known to have voiced support for Trump's conspiracy theory that voting machines were rigged. Later, he was one of 147 Republicans to object to results in key states, even after a pro-Trump mob attacked Congress on January 6, 2021. Nine people died and hundreds of convictions of the rioters followed that included members of the rabid three percenters, Proud Boys. Johnson also authored an amicus curiae submitted in the Supreme Court in a case in which Texas sought to have swing-state results thrown out.

According to the New York Times, a House Republican lawyer said Johnson's brief was unconstitutional. Nonetheless, he used pressure tactics on 125 colleagues to sign it, described as heavy-handed. The Supreme Court threw out the case. On Tuesday, Johnson refused to take a question about his work on Trump's behalf -- smiling as fellow Republicans booed and jeered the reporter.

Johnson was a spokesperson for a 'hate group', many Democrats felt as they supported their Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies for the post of Speaker in all four rounds of the race. Before entering politics, Johnson worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom -- designated a hate group by the Southern Law Poverty Center, which tracks US extremists, media reports said .

Johnson opposes LGBTQ+ rights: In state politics and at the national level, Johnson has worked to erode gains made by LGBTQ+ Americans in their fight for equality. 

In 2016, when he ran for Congress, he told the Louisiana Baptist Message he had "been out on the front lines of the 'culture war' defending religious freedom, the sanctity of human life and biblical values, including the defence of traditional marriage, and other ideals like these when they've been under assault".

The most important item on the agenda for Johnson as Speaker in the House will be forming an agreement among members across the aisle to fund the government beyond mid-November, when the 45-day extension to keep government open expires.

Johnson has to walk the tightrope in choosing between Republican insistence on deep cuts on Bidens' budgetary expenditure that could alienate voters and potentially his own fellow lawmakers, or a more moderate proposal meant to keep the government running until the numbers on the spending cuts are negotiated between the Republicans and the Democrats, reports said. That's a story that will play out in the weeks to come, but one thing is assured: Democrats will be watching, media reports said.

Given the mood of the house, neither is Mike Johnson's tenure as Speaker permanent as he walks the razor's edge in trying to get both Democrats and Republicans to a common minimum programme, analysts say. 

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