A Major Move By Mike Johnson

Ryan Heshmati

November 24, 2023

Speaker Mike Johnson, a congressman of Lousiana, who took the speakership on October 25, after Kevin McCarthy was ousted through a plot launched by Matt Gaetz, now celebrates a major success. He succeeded in passing a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown, which then passed the Senate, and was subsequently signed by President Biden.

The bill funds the federal agencies for Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs Departments until January 19, 2024. The others, like the Department of Defense, get slightly longer until February 2, 2024. 

Johnson, who needed to tackle the major threat of a looming shutdown only weeks after taking the House’s helm, may have angered many within his own party with the bill. According to NPR’s Kelsey Snell, in terms of cuts, the legislation mandates a universal 1% spending cut in April should Congress fail to reach a long-term agreement. While not insignificant, compared to the kinds of major spending cuts some Republican members of the House were hoping to obtain, it may be disappointing to some, explaining why 93 of the 95 no votes in the House came from Republicans. At the same time, the lack of robust cuts may have been how it made it through a Democratic-controlled Senate, where it passed with 87 votes in support and 11 in opposition.

Texas’ Chip Roy, a Republican who has served in Congress since 2019, criticized Johnson’s bill as “doing the same thing” as the kind of proposals that “... resulted in the motion to vacate against Kevin [McCarthy]...” These frustrations indicate that while Mike Johnson may have succeeded in averting what could have become a major national crisis in his first weeks on the job, he also looks to have alienated a bloc of his party that could respond by hindering his ability to lead going forward. 

Many others hailed the bill, though, with Democrat Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, praising “... a great outcome for the American people.” The bipartisanship that Johnson was able to build in order to get the bill passed constitutes a major victory for an individual so new to the role. 

The Republican-controlled House holds only a slim majority, and with a nation less than a year away from 2024 presidential, senate, and congressional elections, the need for Johnson to show the American electorate that he and his party can effectively govern is all the more critical. Ultimately, the country could be back in a problematic position should no long-term agreement be reached in the coming months, or Johnson could successfully prevail there, too.