A Closer Look at the House Speaker’s Defense Priorities

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Republican Representative Mike Johnson from Louisiana has been elected as the new speaker of the House, marking a significant shift in the leadership following weeks of GOP infighting. Johnson, known for his solidly conservative voting record, secured the speakership with unanimous support from the Republican caucus. After the ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, he became the fourth choice for the role.

Mike Johnson’s political journey has been marked by a commitment to conservative values, particularly in defense and social issues. The Louisiana congressman’s swift rise within the Republican ranks can be attributed to his unwavering positions on key policies. Before he was elected speaker, Johnson was the vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, making him the fifth highest-ranking Republican in the House.

One of Johnson’s notable policy stances is his opposition to a sweeping toxic exposure bill for veterans, known as the PACT Act, passed last year. The bill aimed to expand benefits and healthcare for veterans who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service, but Johnson and other staunch conservatives raised concerns over its estimated $278 billion price tag.

Additionally, Johnson voted against a year-end package of smaller veterans and military family measures in the same year. Some of the provisions in this bill aimed to protect veterans’ interests, such as recognizing service members’ and spouses’ valid professional licenses from other states and ensuring that veterans wouldn’t lose GI Bill benefits in emergencies like school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, it’s important to note that Johnson has also supported major Republican-backed veterans legislation during his time in Congress. This includes the 2018 Mission Act, designed to make it easier for veterans to access healthcare outside the Department of Veterans Affairs system.

Johnson has consistently voted on defense-related issues in favor of annual defense policy bills, endorsing the idea of maintaining a robust military. He supported overriding then-President Donald Trump’s veto of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, which aimed to remove Confederate names from military bases.

Johnson’s stance on social issues, particularly within the military, has also garnered attention. He voted in favor of amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act, including one that aimed to ban gender-affirming healthcare for transgender troops and another to repeal the Pentagon policy allowing troops travel reimbursements and leave for abortions.

The newly elected speaker also faced criticism from some Republicans for his stance on Ukraine aid. He voted in favor of amendments to strip Ukraine funding from key bills, which led to a low rating from the advocacy group Republicans for Ukraine. This group lobbies for additional Ukraine security assistance, but Johnson and other like-minded Republicans expressed concerns about allocating funds abroad while domestic issues persisted.

As speaker, Johnson will confront critical issues related to government funding and Ukraine assistance. With current government funding set to expire in less than a month and a White House request for roughly $106 billion in financing for Ukraine, Israel, the Indo-Pacific, and border security, he faces the challenge of finding common ground within his party on these divisive topics.

Mike Johnson’s election as the speaker of the House brings a staunch conservative perspective to a pivotal role in the United States government. His commitment to defense spending and conservative principles on social issues will shape the direction of the House’s legislative agenda in the coming months.