Sunday, June 23, 2024

Representative Mike Johnson, the little-known Louisiana Republican seeking to become speaker, is both a leading election denier and one of the staunchest religious conservatives in the House.

Mr. Johnson, a lawyer and former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, played a pivotal role in congressional efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

An evangelical Christian, he has voted for a national abortion ban and co-sponsored a 20-week abortion ban, earning him an A-plus rating from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. On the day the Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, he celebrated, calling it “an extraordinary day in American history that took us almost a half-century to get to.” He hosts a religious podcast with his wife and considers Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of the founders of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus, a mentor.

Last year, Mr. Johnson introduced a bill that prohibited the use of federal funds for providing sex education to children under 10 that included any L.G.B.T.Q. topics — a proposal that critics called a national version of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. Mr. Johnson called the legislation “common sense.”

He also opposed legislation to mandate federal recognition for same-sex marriages — a bill that passed with strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. And he has long opposed sending aid to Ukraine.

His rise in the depressed and divided Republican conference comes after three weeks when Republicans have been unable to elect a speaker, and underscores the rightward shift of the G.O.P.

Mr. Johnson, who has no experience in top-tier leadership and has never served as a powerful committee chairman, was only able to emerge after three other G.O.P. nominees before him were unable to rally enough support from the conference to win the gavel. And it is unlikely to have happened in any other scenario.

Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the No. 2 House Republican, the first speaker designate, was ultimately seen as insufficiently pro-Trump, and had the added baggage of having spent the year working to bring legislation to the floor that was unpopular with some members of the conference.

Mr. Jordan, the next speaker designate, had Mr. Trump and the hard-right in his corner. But he ultimately failed to win over more centrist members of his party, who steadfastly refused to support him.

Representative Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the majority whip and the third candidate for the job, had the biggest problems of any of the speaker-designates that preceded him: the hard-right wing of the party did not support him and former President Donald J. Trump branded him a “globalist RINO.”

Mr. Johnson’s hallmark in Congress has been combining his hard-line views with a gentle style. He emerged at a moment when members of the conference were worn down and ready to accept someone who they did not view as an obvious choice. Instead, he passed a lowered bar: They view him as someone sufficiently conservative and who they do not personally despise.

Some of the hard-right members of Congress hailed his rise as a sign that their wing of the party was winning.

“If you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention,” Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, said in an interview on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast.

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