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5 things to know about Mike Johnson, the GOP’s latest House speaker nominee

Rep. Mike Johnson was voted to lead the House as its new speaker on Wednesday.  (Jonathan Newton/Washington Post)
By Annabelle Timsit, Amy B Wang and Mariana Alfaro Washington Post

The Republican-led House voted Wednesday for Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., as its new speaker. Johnson, who served as vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, was the GOP’s fourth nominee for the speakership. The drawn-out and chaotic voting process had left the House effectively closed for business.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was removed as speaker in an unprecedented vote early this month after failing to withstand a rebellion among far-right dissidents over his support of a bill to avert a government shutdown. Since then, Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesot tried and failed to secure the 217 votes needed to become speaker of the GOP-controlled House.

After Johnson was nominated in a Republican closed-door vote Tuesday, he was flanked by his colleagues, projected confidence and was promising to restore voters’ trust in government and to govern effectively.

Here are five things to know about Mike Johnson and his political views.

He opposed certifying the 2020 election

Johnson, 51, contested the results of the 2020 election – urging President Donald Trump to “stay strong and keep fighting” as he tried to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in the presidential race.

Johnson objected to certifying Biden’s electoral win and was one of the architects of a legal attack on the election that consisted of arguing that states’ voting accommodations during the pandemic were unconstitutional. He led a group of 126 Republican lawmakers in filing an amicus brief to the Supreme Court alleging that authorities in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan had “usurped” the constitutional authority of state legislatures when they loosened voting restrictions because of the pandemic. The court rejected the underlying complaint – filed by the state of Texas – citing a lack of standing, and dismissed all other related motions, including the amicus brief.

He voted against further Ukraine aid

Johnson, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, was one of 57 lawmakers – all of them Republicans – who voted against a $39.8 billion aid package for Ukraine in May.

According to the Shreveport Times, Johnson explained his opposition to the bill by saying the U.S. “should not be sending another $40 billion abroad when our own border is in chaos, American mothers are struggling to find baby formula, gas prices are at record highs, and American families are struggling to make ends meet, without sufficient oversight over where the money will go.”

Johnson has called for more oversight of the aid sent to Ukraine – totaling more than $60 billion to date. In February, after a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the topic, he tweeted American taxpayers “deserve to know if the Ukrainian government is being entirely forthcoming and transparent about the use of this massive sum of taxpayer resources.”

While most GOP leaders continue to support U.S. aid for Ukraine, polls show growing skepticism among the party’s rank and file, as well as a sharp drop in support for further military assistance among people who identify as Republicans.

He is anti-abortion

Johnson, a constitutional lawyer who identifies as a Christian, opposes abortion and has celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that had established constitutional protections for abortions nationwide.

“There is no right to abortion in the Constitution; there never was,” Johnson told Fox News on the day the decision was announced, calling it “a great, joyous occasion.”

The antiabortion nonprofit Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America gives Johnson an A+ ranking on this issue, stating he “has voted consistently to defend the lives of the unborn and infants,” including by “stopping hard-earned tax dollars from paying for abortion, whether domestically or internationally.”

He is a close ally of Donald Trump’s

Johnson is a close ally of Trump’s, having served on Trump’s legal defense team during his two impeachment trials in the Senate.

He has called charges against Trump – which include a federal case relating to his attempts to overturn the 2020 election – “bogus,” and has said the legal and political systems have treated Trump unfairly.

He supports LGBTQ+ restrictions

Johnson has positioned himself on the far right of the political spectrum on several social issues, even within the current conservative Republican conference. Notably, he introduced legislation last year – modeled after Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill – that would have prohibited discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as related subjects, at any institution that received federal funds. The Human Rights Campaign, a pro-LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, gave Johnson a score of zero in its latest congressional scorecard.

Johnson opposes gender-affirming care for minors and led a hearing on the subject in July. In a statement, he described gender-affirming care – meaning medical care that affirms or recognizes the gender identity of the person receiving the care, and which can include giving puberty or hormone blockers to minors under close monitoring from a doctor – as “adults inflicting harm on helpless children to affirm their world view.”

Health care bodies, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, say gender-affirming care is an appropriate form of treatment for people, including minors, who identify as transgender. But the issue is divisive in the United States: In a Washington Post-KFF poll conducted late last year, nearly 7 in 10 adults said they opposed allowing children ages 10 to 14 access to medication that would stop the body from going through puberty, and nearly 6 in 10 opposed giving 15- to 17-year-olds access to hormone treatments.