By Tom Ozimek
The appointment of Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) as the new House Speaker won high praise from a number of Republicans, with a remark by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) seeming to capture the spirit of enthusiasm among the GOP: “America’s back on track.”
Mr. Johnson became the 56th speaker of the House of Representatives on Oct. 25, winning 220 votes and unanimous support from the Republican conference on the first ballot.
His election to the top job in the lower chamber capped off weeks of Republican infighting and seems to have reignited a renewed focus for party members to coalesce around their shared vision for America.
Some members of Congress addressed Mr. Johnson’s election in remarks on the House floor a day after the vote, as the new speaker wielded the gavel for the first time.
“What an extraordinary day that we have the beginning of the speakership of Mike Johnson of Louisiana,” Mr. Wilson said, adding that the new speaker has sounded a clarion call for Republicans to rally around conservative principles like limited government, expanded freedoms, and less red tape.
“It’s such a positive message,” Mr. Wilson said. “He’s going to stop the war on fossil fuels so that we have fuels and have energy independence. He’s going to be for a strong America.”
“We will have a dynamic speaker and we look forward to his leadership. And again, America is back on track,” he said.
‘That’s What We Stand For’
In his first interview after winning the gavel, Mr. Johnson told Fox News host Sean Hannity that he believes his election presents an opportunity for Republicans to coalesce around core conservative values.
“That’s individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity,” Mr. Johnson said in the interview Friday. “That’s what we stand for.”
“I call them the core principles of American conservatism, but it’s really the core principles of America itself,” he continued. “We’re different. We’re exceptional. The reason we’re the freest, most powerful, most successful nation in the history of the world, is because that’s what we stand for.”
Arguing that those values and principles are now “under assault,” he called for his fellow Republicans to come together and “defend them here every day with everything we have.”
In the wide-ranging interview, the previously little-known Republican from Louisiana also discussed the Biden presidency, foreign policy, and government funding.
On President Joe Biden, Mr. Johnson said he thinks “it’s been a failed presidency,” while pledging to continue the impeachment inquiry against the incumbent, whom he accused of lying to the American people about his involvement in his family’s business dealings.
“We have the receipts on so much of this now,” Mr. Johnson said, referring to evidence that includes bank records showing tens of millions of dollars paid to various shell corporations linked to Biden family members, including the president’s son, Hunter Biden.
While President Biden has denied any involvement in his son’s business affairs, the GOP-led House Oversight Committee has released over 20 examples of evidence tying the president to Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
“There’s a lot of smoke here, and we’re going to find out very soon how big the fire is,” Mr. Johnson said.
Foreign Policy, Government Funding
On foreign policy, Mr. Johnson said that Russian President Vladimir Putin can’t be allowed to prevail in Ukraine “because I don’t believe it would stop there.”
“It would probably encourage and empower China to perhaps make a move on Taiwan,” he said. “We have those concerns.
On the situation in Israel, he called it a “very delicate situation” that is being monitored closely as things are changing “by the hour.”
“We certainly hope that it doesn’t come to boots on the ground,” he said of the prospect of involvement by U.S. forces.
The first action of the House will be the approval of a nonbinding resolution in support of Israel’s right to self-defense, according to Mr. Johnson.
He also expressed skepticism about the good intentions to send aid to Gaza residents who remain in the war zone, saying that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields and doesn’t even provide Gazan civilians with clean drinking water.
“We’re supposed to believe they’re going to use U.S. aid for humanitarian purposes? Count me as a skeptic,” he told Mr. Hannity.
And on government funding, he said that his first order of business would be to start negotiating with the White House about funding bills. While he didn’t rule out the need for another stopgap funding bill when the funding runs out on Nov. 17, he insisted that Republican support would be conditional on spending cuts.
“We’re working through this with the ideas and trying to ensure that if another stopgap measure is required, that we do it with certain conditions,” he said.
“I think there will be conditions that the American people can live with and the consensus that we can build around here in the House.”
Besides winning praise from House Republicans, Mr. Johnson’s rise to the speakership was met with words of support from former President Donald Trump.
President Trump, who earlier backed Mr. Johnson’s candidacy for speaker, congratulated him on the win.
“I just want to congratulate Mike Johnson. He will be a great speaker of the House, and we were very happy to have helped,” he told reporters outside a New York courtroom. “I’ve known him for a long time.”
“He’s a tremendous leader and a tremendous man.”
Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) had words of praise for Mr. Johnson upon his nomination.
She described Mr. Johnson as a deeply principled man of faith who was strong, fair, and kind, and able to lead the House as the country faces a series of challenges.
“The people are looking to this great chamber to save America, and save America we will,” Ms. Stefanik said. “Today is the day we get this done.”
Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said: “I’ve seen a commitment in Mr. Johnson … to things bigger than himself, going back to my days in the statehouse. And when he came to Congress, those same principles followed him.”