House elects new speaker

On October 27, 2023, in Congressional News, by David Elrod

The House of Representatives this week elected Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA) as the 56th Speaker of the House.

Johnson’s ascension to the position follows nearly three weeks in which the House had no speaker after Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was vacated from the position.


Johnson, first elected to Congress in 2017, has represented Louisiana’s 4th Congressional district, which includes most of the rural northwest part of the state. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Johnson holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a law degree from Louisiana State University (LSU). Prior to his election to Congress, Johnson served as legal counsel to the Alliance Defending Freedom and founded the Freedom Guard, a nonprofit legal ministry that represents Christian clients in lawsuits. Johnson also served as a professor at Liberty University’s Helms School of Government.

Before any bills could move forward, including funding the government for FY2024 and potentially providing aid for Israel, the House needed to select a new Speaker to replace McCarthy.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) had assumed the temporary position of Speaker Pro Tempore, a position held in secrecy unless necessary and designed to provide continuity of government during the time of transition to the next Speaker. Due to the relative lack of historical precedent regarding the position, there was uncertainty as to whether McHenry could exercise the powers of Speaker, foremost of which is the power to bring bills to the floor, while he serves as Speaker Pro Tem. He ultimately did not attempt to exercise such powers.

Last week the House held three votes on the floor to select Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) as speaker, but each vote failed. House Republicans held numerous, sometimes heated, closed-door meetings over the course of the last three weeks, and some members left last Friday morning before the final Jordan floor vote.

The Jordan votes came after the House Republican conference held a secret vote to nominate Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) for speaker, but Scalise withdrew from the race before a public vote was held on the House floor.

Now that the House has elevated Rep. Johnson to the post, it must pass FY2024 government funding by November 17 as well as address the now-expired 2018 Farm Bill. As of now, certain commodity provisions of the farm bill including price supports run through CY2023, but if Congress does not pass at least an extension of the 2018 Farm Bill by the end of the year, certain “permanent” farm bill provisions created in 1938 and 1949 will take effect. Such provisions would be disastrous to certain industries, such as the dairy industry, so Congress must pass some sort of extension before the end of the year.