Grace Notes: In new Democratic Congress, Republican Mike Johnson makes his move
Once the newly elected Congress reconvenes in January, all eyes are going to be on House Democrats, whose big Election Night earlier this month positions them to take over control of the chamber and lead every committee. Among other things, that means that Louisiana’s best-known Republican, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, will see his profile as his party’s chief vote-counter shrink.
There is one Louisiana Republican who may become more prominent, though. While much of the world was busy prepping for Thanksgiving, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson of Benton won an all-GOP vote to head the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of House conservatives that counted 150 members in the outgoing Congress. It’s a job that’s been held by quite a few members who’ve gone on to bigger things, including Scalise, Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price
If Johnson’s name isn’t as familiar as his predecessors’, there’s good reason. His election comes less than four years after he won his first elective office, a special election for Louisiana House, and just two years after he went to Washington. A constitutional lawyer whose policy positions line up with the religious right, Johnson has also tried to take on the challenging task of bringing civility back to Congress along with Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor of Florida.
Louisiana has a long history of sending members to Congress who stayed for a long time and built up seniority. Scalise’s path since his election 10 years ago followed a new model, one in which it’s possible to rise through the ranks in relatively short order. Judging by Johnson’s win, this may be the new normal.