After securing the gavel and ending three weeks of House impasse, the newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson faces a long list of hurdles.
The 51-year-old will have to hold together a free-wheeling Republican conference that has been hostile to leadership figures. He was the fourth nominee in three weeks – chosen after three others won a majority in conference but could not win the GOP votes needed to clinch the gavel on the floor.
DailyMail.com breaks down the top challenges new Speaker Johnson faces.
Small staff and limited fundraising experience
The Louisiana Republican and former vice chair of the GOP conference has never chaired a committee and is working with a relatively small staff. Johnson has also only been in Congress since 2016 – a relatively short time compared to previous speakers.
He’ll be responsible for trying to heal deep divisions among members and will be forced to work closely with two people who tried to get the top job before him: Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Whip Tom Emmer.
Speakers are typically responsible for rolling in donations to keep and expand the House majority. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was a prolific fundraiser, as was Nancy Pelosi before him.
But Johnson is not nearly as connected with Washington lobbyists and has only raised $540,000 in all of 2023. That’s pennies on the dollar compared to McCarthy’s $15.3 haul just from July to September this year.
After securing the gavel and ending three weeks of House impasse, the newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson faces a long list of hurdles
Johnson pictured with his wife and children
Motion to vacate threat looms
Johnson will also have to contend with whether to change the rule that allowed McCarthy’s swift ouster.
In catering to his right wing detractors in January during his tumultuous speaker vote, McCarthy agreed to a single member ‘motion to vacate.’ That means only one member can call a vote on the House floor to oust the head of the Republicans.
Through that rule Rep. Matt Gaetz filed the motion that ousted McCarthy earlier this month, joined by seven other Republicans and all Democrats.
The rule forced McCarthy to walk a tightrope between appeasing his right wing detractors and working with the Democratic-led Senate.
That will be a tall order for Johnson during next month’s spending battle, when the continuing resolution (CR) that prompted McCarthy’s firing will expire.
But Freedom Caucus-aligned members who oppose McCarthy have signaled they will give Johnson more leeway.
‘I’m proud to support our new Speaker Mike Johnson! I’m going to do everything I can to make him successful,’ Gaetz wrote on X.
Rapidly approaching government shutdown
At the 11th hour before a September 30th deadline, McCarthy put a ‘clean’ CR on the floor that extended government funding at 2023 levels set under Pelosi for six weeks.
That gave the House more time to pass 12 single subject spending bills to fund each agency of government. But even those party-line bills have proved contentious among the fractured conference, and at some point Johnson will have to work with the Democratic-led Senate to pass negotiated spending bills.
Johnson has proposed putting another CR on the House floor to extend government funding until either January 15 or April 15 so the Senate ‘cannot jam the House with a Christmas omnibus.’
Johnson and his wife in an older photo
Johnson opposed the continuing resolution McCarthy put on the floor weeks ago.
Johnson’s conservative voting record raised questions about how well he will be able to negotiate with the Democratic Senate and White House.
Rep. Dusty Johnson, a pragmatic conservative from South Dakota, told reporters that Johnson places a high importance on civility.
He said when he came to office, ‘Mike Johnson came to my office, sat down with me as a new member and talked to me about how important civility was in this place, how even when we disagree with our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, we should try to do it as as people who have good faith and good intention with decency.’
‘That is not something very many members will spend time in these halls, preaching the importance of civility, but I bring that up, because that is at his heart who Mike Johnson is.’
Johnson releases his plan for the upcoming appropriations fight
Johnson releases his plan for the upcoming appropriations fight
Ukraine aid debacle
Johnson has already pushed through a resolution to support Israel that passed with overwhelming support, and now he’ll have to contend with whether to push through more Israel aid amid its war with Hamas and Ukraine aid for its war with Russia.
Asked whether he supports Ukraine aid on Tuesday, Johnson told reporters: ‘We all do. We’re gonna have conditions on that. We’re working through it. We’ll get you more details.’
The Senate is considering a request from the White House for a Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and border security package.
George Santos’ legal woes
He’ll also have to contend with how to deal with a resolution to expel embattled Rep. George Santos.
New York Republicans have said they will put forth a privileged resolution next week – triggering a vote that would need to pass a two-thirds threshold within two legislative days.
Johnson has declined to say whether he supports the effort to expel Santos. Doing so would put Republicans down another seat in their four-seat majority.
Anti-Israel rhetoric by Democrats
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has also filed a resolution to censure ‘Squad’ Rep. Rashida Tlaib, claiming she incited an ‘insurrection’ when she spoke at a pro-Palestinian protest that infiltrated the Capitol campus.
Greene called the legislation to the floor by also filing it as a privileged resolution.
Johnson has expressed his support for Israel, but it remains to be seen if he’ll back Greene’s resolution.
The new speaker’s first course of action was putting a resolution in support of Israel and condemning the Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7.
Democrats attacks on his denial of the 2020 election and gay rights record
Democrats are already after Johnson’s conservative record and involvement in the efforts to overturn the 2020 election results.
Johnson led an amicus brief signed by more than 100 Republicans to a Texas lawsuit seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Asked about his past efforts to overturn the results on Tuesday night, he huffed and told a reporter: ‘next question.’
Rep. Madeleine Dean told DailyMail.com that a colleague told her the only difference between Johnson and Ohio firebrand Jim Jordan is that ‘one wears a jacket.’
Dean predicted Johnson would face the same ‘untrustworthy’ accusations that were levied against Kevin McCarthy.
‘He’s not somebody who’s based in the truth he’s very smooth talking. He’s clearly bright, but he’s not based on the facts and the truth,’ she said.
The deeply religious Johnson also spent years opposing gay rights.
As an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), a Christian advocacy group, in 2003 warned that the Supreme Court striking down laws that criminalized homosexual activity went against ‘American values.’
‘There is clearly no ‘right to sodomy’ in the Constitution,’ Johnson wrote in a 2003 column in the Shreveport Times. ‘And the right of ‘privacy of the home’ has never placed all activity with the home outside the bounds of the criminal law.’
He was the lead author of the federal so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill – a 2022 bill that would prohibit federal money from going to ‘develop, implement, facilitate, or fund any sexually oriented program, event, or literature’ for kids under 10.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a stern warning for Johnson:
‘If Speaker Johnson repeats the mistakes of Speaker McCarthy, if he tumbles down the MAGA road, it will be inevitable that the House finds itself trapped in even more chaos very soon,’ he said in a floor speech Thursday. ‘If Speaker Johnson lives up to the label that Congressman Gaetz has given him, MAGA Mike, he will fail as the previous Speakers have.’