Mike Johnson wants civility — and Trump

On the way to Israel in 2017 Jodey Arrington, Brian Fitzpatrick, and Mike Johnson he set out one late night to discover by the light of the Bible where David slew Goliath in the valley of Elah. “I mean, it was amazing,” says Arrington, a Texas Republican who met Johnson in 2016 during their first year in Congress. «Mike was in the back and his Bible lit up on his cell phone,» said Fitzpatrick, now chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Intelligence. “(He) led us to the place by reading the Bible and we found the field where David was collecting stones,” he continued. «We collected our own stones and brought them home with us, and many of us gave them to the rabbis in our districts as we informed them about Israel.»

Johnson’s use of God to guide his fellow citizens through the darkness may sound familiar. But then he was just an ordinary congressman, a relative nobody to most Americans. Then on October 25, a bitter three-week battle for replacement expelled speaker Kevin McCarthy ended abruptly when the Louisiana representative emerged from obscurity to be elected 220 to 209 by a unified GOP House.

Matt Gaetz, recounts the Florida Republican troublemaker who initiated McCarthy’s ouster Vanity Fair that Lauren Boebert he first spoke for Johnson. «And she was considered out of order,» Gaetz recalls. «I believe it was McCarthy who yelled ‘You’re out of business’ at that meeting,» the deputy said. Tim Burchett, a Tennessee Republican who voted to release McCarthy. «He was the only person who protested,» Burchett added. Boebert confirmed that she was the first to endorse Johnson for Speaker during the tumultuous GOP meetings following McCarthy’s ouster. “We were at the conference and it wasn’t for the nomination at the time. We were sent home again without a spokesperson because that’s what we do here in this town: we just run away whenever we have work,» she recalled. «I said, ‘I don’t want to go home! I nominate Mike Johnson.”

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During Johnson’s first year in the House in 2017, he impressed Arrington by drafting a «Pledge of Civility» signed by 46 new members. «I don’t know of another member who walks the walk of his faith like Mike Johnson,» Arrington said. «We all sat around a U-shaped table and shared our hearts, and what we found (was it) was a shared commitment between us that we wanted to do Congress in a different way,» Johnson said of the first meeting during the Freshman House retreat at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. «We wanted to change the tone in Washington, and we lamented that there is this kind of vitriol in the culture and that it’s really too often fueled by vitriol in our politics and our public discourse.»

Nanette Barragán a Democrat and fellow freshman in Johnson’s cohort, recalls the meeting and his promise of civility. «The whole conversation was really ignited because of Trump and his rhetoric and division,» she said. “The way it was framed was that we learn to disagree better. The California representative said she reminded Johnson of the pledge of civility on the House floor shortly after he became speaker of the House. Johnson told Barragán that he was considering taking the Pledge of Civility back to the current Congress. But Barragán is skeptical. «The fact that he couldn’t get his own caucus to join the (citizen pledge) … tells me he probably wouldn’t fly there,» she said of the House of Representatives.

Seven years after the introduction of this pledge of civility, Johnson is now known to many Americans for being the second least experienced speaker elected (the first being John G. Carlisle, who won the gavel in 1883) and his extremist views on abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, evolution, separation of church and state, and climate science.

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Johnson is also known for his efforts to try to overturn the 2020 election. His argument against certification Joe BidenHis presidency was rooted in the baseless, far-right legal theory that the states, and only the states, can set federal election rules — not Congress. «His great asset is politeness, civility and Southern charm,» he said Jaime Raskin, the Maryland Democrat who led the argument against Johnson’s push to decertify Biden’s presidency, adding, «But he’s a rabid theocrat who doesn’t believe in the basic precepts of the Constitution.»

Johnson has since declined to confirm that Biden won in 2020 when he told CBS Margaret Brennan that suggestions he is an election denier are «nonsense». Last Wednesday, Vanity Fair he asked Johnson if he believed a Biden presidency was the will of God. «God is the one who enables men to be raised to authority,» Johnson said reluctantly. «So it must have been God’s will,» he added, before calling for «regime change» in the November election.

Three months into his administration, Johnson’s seat appears far from secure as he carries the weight of a speech amid legislative problems and growing Republican frustration with his leadership. Later Wednesday, the House Speaker met with Biden, the House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on a bipartisan compromise on restrictive immigration policies to unblock GOP support for funding Ukraine’s war effort against Russia. The proposal received lukewarm support on Capitol Hill, where many Republicans, such as the first-term senator JD Vance of Ohio, remain skeptical of Biden’s open support for Ukraine. “There is no obvious target. It’s not clear how much money it’s going to cost,” Vance told reporters in December, a sentiment echoed by others in Johnson’s House GOP flock.

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