Speaker At Last
New Speaker, NY Economy, Remembering Camille
Good morning from Washington, D.C. where after 22 days and three failed nominees (nominee #3 House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) made it only four hours!), the House of Representatives has a new Speaker: Mike Johnson, a mild-mannered conservative Republican from Louisiana serving only his fourth term in Congress. Johnson, previously a Deputy Whip and Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference, has been a member of the House Judiciary Committee as well as the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
I am honored to have been elected the 56th Speaker of the House. It is time to come together to deliver for the American people!
— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson)
Oct 25, 2023
A well-liked member of leadership, Johnson is seen by his colleagues as policy focused as well as a principled conservative. Among the various Republicans who sought the Speakership, Johnson has the most accomplished legislative record, having 6.5% of his sponsored bills become law. A social conservative, Johnson has been a vocal opponent of gay marriage and a supporter of banning abortion. He typically votes in line with his Republican colleagues and has a 92% rating from the American Conservative Union and 90% from Heritage Action and is known for placing his Evangelical Christianity at the center of his political life and policy positions.
In addition to the sighs of relief from Republicans and many of us across America, you may have heard shouts of joy from the Trump wing of the party. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla), who started all this with his motion to vacate against then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, said, “If you don’t think 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.”
“If you don’t think 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.”
Former President Donald Trump also labeled the new speaker as “MAGA Mike Johnson” in a social media post. Johnson was a leading voice supporting Trump’s claims to have won the 2020 election, that COVID was a hoax and vaccines are dangerous, and even described the January 6th insurrection as a “legitimate protest.”
That may be a problem for the more moderate Republicans, especially vulnerable New York Members. In fact, as Republican Rep. Mike Lawler cast his vote for Rep. Mike Johnson for Speaker of the House, Rep. Nydia Velázquez yelled out “bye-bye.”
I said what I said.
— Rep. Nydia Velazquez (@NydiaVelazquez)
Oct 25, 2023
To be clear, Republicans of every stripe were united behind Johnson, both to get the House back to work and because Johnson is, as Lawler tweeted, “unfailingly kind, smart, principled.”
Today @RepMikeJohnson will be elected as the 56th Speaker of the House. He is unfailingly kind, smart, principled, and will unify the conference behind our commitment to America. While there are issues where we differ, we must get back to governing for the good of the country. 🇺🇸
— Mike Lawler (@lawler4ny)
Oct 25, 2023
In fact, some moderates argue the new Speaker is their opportunity to shape the Republican agenda: “We have to speak up,” said Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.). “We’re a strong voice as majority makers. Now’s the time to express it with a new Speaker.” Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) said his vote for Johnson was not a “concession to the far-right.” He wants to see Johnson make a concerted effort to listen to those in purple districts. “It’s critically important we message correctly,” Garcia said. “We have to be mindful that there are still those in swing districts that need to be able to navigate some of these issues.”
Rep. John Duarte (R-Calif.) offered a distinction between conservative fiscal policy and social policy saying, “If the conservative majority starts to feed us things that are socially conservative and messaging bills that we don’t want to sign on to, well, then they’ll get some pushback.”
“If the conservative majority starts to feed us things that are socially conservative and messaging bills that we don’t want to sign on to, well, then they’ll get some pushback.”
With 18 Republicans representing Congressional Districts won by Biden in 2020 to only 5 Democrats in Trump districts that will be important if Republicans are to hold the House in 2024. As of this week, the Cook Political Report rates 14 Republican seats as toss-up races compared to 5 for Democrats.
The other big issue that may influence more votes than tying endangered incumbents to Johnson’s socially conservative views, is what Johnson does as Speaker. Government funding runs out in 19 days though Johnson has proposed a continuing resolution through January 15 or April 15 to avoid being jammed by the Senate at the end of the year while also pledging the House will finish the 7 remaining appropriations bills by November 17th.
That said, effective governing will require Johnson to work closely with GOP leaders in the Senate, some of whom did not even know the Louisiana Republican before this week. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has never even met Johnson while others have raised doubts about Johnson’s ability to work across the aisle. “To pass anything, you have to get Democratic votes. You don’t have to be Einstein’s cousin to figure that one out,” said GOP Sen. John Kennedy, a fellow Louisianan. “I just don’t know how he’s going to handle it. [Nov.] 17 is coming, the world’s on fire, the border’s open and inflation continues to gut the American people like a fish… All this has to be addressed.”
“To pass anything, you have to get Democratic votes. You don’t have to be Einstein’s cousin to figure that one out.”
Senate Minority Whip John Thune said, “We need somebody to work with and somebody who could get the House functioning again.”
The other big issue is Biden’s $105 billion national-security funding request. McConnell and other Republican leaders support the idea of linking aid for Israel and Ukraine in one bill while Johnson has voted against Ukraine aid. “The question is whether — with a majority of his conference generally supporting Ukraine aid before you even go to the Democrats who also support it — what does he do?” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said of Johnson. “He’s going to get a chance to prove it pretty quickly.”
President Biden has requested additional funding from Congress to advance our national security and support our allies and partners across the globe.
Watch as National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby breaks this funding down:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse)
Oct 21, 2023
Speaker Johnson also faces some logistical challenges, as well. Usually, new Speakers take office having spent years in the leadership or at least on a House Committee assembling a top-flight staff, an extensive political infrastructure and a deep donor network. Speaker Mike Johnson has a staff of 12.
Eight of Johnson’s aides started working for the Louisiana Republican in 2023. He’s raised just $553,000 this year. Compare that to the $16 million former Speaker Kevin McCarthy raised in the third quarter alone.
In Johnson’s previous role as Conference Vice Chair, his main job was scheduling one-minute speeches on the floor and urging members to pen op-eds. Johnson created a contest whereby the best orators and op-ed writers got mini statues of historical figures such as John Adams and Patrick Henry. During football season, Johnson handed out signed footballs.
Johnson was on the edge of the House GOP leadership. He served on the Steering Committee, which chooses committee assignments, and attended the Elected Leadership Council meetings, but he was not a part of the Daily Management Meeting, the nucleus of the House Leadership.
The transition will take time and effort for Johnson to build an operation. It takes a lot of skilled people to run the Speaker’s Office including a more extensive communications operation, a member services team, and a very extensive political operation including numerous fundraisers. All while getting the House up and running and negotiating with the Senate and White House.
Members went home for the weekend, but will have votes beginning on Wednesday.
Back in New York, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli issued a report with some good news regarding New York City’s recovery and what that means for all of New York State, including 43 percent of total statewide collections, nearing pre-pandemic levels.
NYC’s economy contributed heavily to the state pre-pandemic. My office is tracking economic indicators + NYC is almost back + in some cases stronger than before COVID. Its wages accounted for 3/5 of the state’s wages + sales tax collections are strong. osc.state.ny.us/press/releases…
— Tom DiNapoli (@NYSComptroller)
Oct 26, 2023
The report showed that after a pandemic slowdown, NYC is back as the State’s economic engine. Highlights include New York City’s gross domestic product rising 8.2 percent from 2017 to 2022. There were concerns, as well, about more families in poverty and the cost of housing.
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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer has announced the Buffalo-Rochester-Syracuse region has been named a federal “tech hub” under the CHIPS & Science Act. The proposal, called the “NY SMART I-Corridor Tech Hub,” was among hundreds of applications in the nationwide competition. It aims to transform the tri-city region — with OD&A client, the University at Buffalo playing a critical role — into a global hub for workforce training, innovation and manufacturing of semiconductor technology. [Read more.]
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This Day in History
October 30, 1938: A radio broadcast of H. G. Wells "The War of the Worlds", narrated by Orson Welles, allegedly causes a mass panic.