A Speaker, if the House Can Keep Him

Happy Friday! If you thought going into this week that Republican Rep. Mike Johnson and Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips would be names on everyone’s lips by the end of it, you might consider buying a lottery ticket.

Up to Speed

  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin does not plan to file to run in the 2024 New Hampshire primary before Friday’s deadline, possibly quieting speculation he might mount an eleventh-hour bid for the Republican presidential nomination. Some wealthy GOP donors opposed to Donald Trump and unhappy with the candidates running against the former president are encouraging Youngkin to run. “Gov. Youngkin is spending every waking moment making the case for our Virginia candidates—telling voters why they should send him a team in Richmond to keep moving Virginia forward,” chief Youngkin political adviser Dave Rexrode told The Dispatch in a statement. Virginia’s off-year legislative elections are November 7.
  • A federal judge ruled Thursday that Georgia’s congressional and legislative maps unlawfully diminish the voting power of black voters and must be redrawn. The likeliest result is a redrawn federal map netting Democrats another seat in the House in a state currently represented by nine Republicans and five Democrats. The Republican-led legislature will reconvene to draw the new maps, which are due by December 8. 
  • Special counsel Jack Smith is asking a federal judge to reinstate the gag order blocking Donald Trump from commenting publicly on his election-interference trial, citing the former president’s public comments about his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, who is reportedly cooperating with prosecutors. The temporary suspension last week of Trump’s gag order, Smith argued in a filing, has allowed him to “send an unmistakable and threatening message to a foreseeable witness in this case.” 
  • Arizona Republican Blake Masters is taking another crack at electoral politics. After failing last year to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, Masters announced Thursday he will run for the House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Debbie Lesko, who announced last week she won’t seek reelection in 2024. Masters had been considering another Senate bid, but changed course after former newscaster Kari Lake, who lost the race for governor last year to Democrat Katie Hobbs, entered that contest.
  • Rep. Jared Golden said Thursday he now supports a federal ban on assault weapons. The centrist Democrat offered the declaration after a mass shooting in his hometown of Lewiston, Maine, left 18 people dead. Golden, a Marine veteran who represents Maine’s Republican-leaning 2nd Congressional District, has been an ardent defender of gun rights. The shift could prove problematic for his reelection prospects. Former President Donald Trump won Golden’s large rural district handily in 2016 and 2020.

Meet Speaker Mike Johnson

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, October 26, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images)
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, October 26, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images)

White smoke above Congress: After weeks of chaos, the House at last has its new speaker. 

In an environment where pretty much any preexisting baggage was enough to doom a candidate, Republicans finally found a leader with a clean enough slate for every GOP faction to be satisfied: Rep. Mike Johnson, a peripheral member of GOP leadership whose candidacy sent much of Washington hurriedly flicking through his Wikipedia page. Perhaps his most notable act as a member of Congress was spearheading one of the main congressional efforts to help Donald Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election—but fortunately for him, conference Republicans have tacitly agreed to memory-hole that whole affair. The GOP conference voted him through unanimously.

Johnson came to Congress by way of the Christian legal movement, serving for years as a lawyer at the major religious-right organization Alliance Defending Freedom. As John Brown University professor Daniel Bennett wrote on the site today, Johnson is “by any account a true believer in ADF’s vision for law and American culture: ‘religious freedom, free speech, the sanctity of life, parental rights, and God’s design for marriage and family.’”

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