House Republicans’ selection of Rep. Mike Johnson (Louisiana) as speaker is likely to open a hole for social conservatives, who are urging him to bring anti-abortion and anti-transgender policies to a vote. planning to apply pressure.
But Republicans remain divided on these red meat issues, and such a floor vote could jeopardize members in battleground states who voted for Mr. Johnson and helped the party gain a majority.
Johnson is one of the most culturally conservative members of Congress elected in recent years. He honed his views as a former lawyer and spokesperson for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the powerful conservative legal group behind some states’ strict anti-abortion laws.
And he’s not shy about his faith-based approach to politics.
“I’m a Bible-believing Christian,” Johnson said in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News Thursday. “Pick up the Bible from the bookshelf and read it. That’s my worldview. That’s what I believe.”
For some in far-right social conservative groups, expectations are high. The fact that a man with such traditional Republican principles was elected to the top post in House leadership shows that those priorities are important to the party, even though some may be concerned about the electoral implications. It shows that there is.
“Conservatives are relieved to see such a strong and courageous person in a position of authority who can actually do something to enact widely popular policies that counter the Biden administration’s radical abortion and gender ideology. ” said Roger Severino, vice president of domestic policy at the Heritage Foundation.
Terry Schilling, president of the American Principles Project, a super PAC that funds anti-abortion and anti-transgender campaigns at the state level, agreed. “For a long time, social conservatives didn’t get a seat at the table. With Mike Johnson speaking, they’ll at least be able to listen to him, at least pitch ideas to him and get some input. . It’s very important.”
To be clear, the dynamics that led to the ouster of then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have not changed.
With government funding set to run out on November 17, Prime Minister Johnson will have to navigate the competing priorities of centrist Republicans and staunch conservatives.
Republicans include controversial policy provisions in nearly every spending bill, including bills that would restrict access to abortion. Deep spending cuts would also reduce or eliminate funding for programs dealing with family planning, teen pregnancy, and even the HIV epidemic.
Most recently, Republicans planned to pass a spending bill to fund the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration amid funding cuts and disagreements over a provision that would ban mail delivery of the abortion drug mifepristone.
In his pitch to House Republicans ahead of Wednesday’s gavel, Johnson proposed creating a working group to address members’ concerns about the bill ahead of a floor vote the week of Nov. 13.
Even if the House succeeds in passing a partisan spending bill, it will face off against the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is pushing a bipartisan funding bill that eliminates the “poison pill” rider.
Patrick Brown, a fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, acknowledged that dealing with spending will be a big test for Mr Johnson. But he said conservatives should be confident the new speaker won’t brush aside his concerns for a deal with the Senate and the White House.
“This is just one chamber of a divided government. So the idea that he would come out and say, ‘We’re always working on abortion,’ is obviously not true.” I don’t think anyone would want him to do that,” Brown said. “But when we talk about it, [appropriation] If you have someone who’s putting those priorities first, whether it’s a deal or whatever, you might be a little more willing to negotiate on some of the things that aren’t in that core bucket. ”
Johnson has a long history of supporting anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ policies. He was instrumental in shutting down abortion clinics in Louisiana and twice defended the state’s same-sex marriage ban.
Democrats and abortion rights groups have already seized on Mr. Johnson’s anti-abortion record and appear ready to use it as a cudgel against the Republican conference ahead of the 2024 election.
Still, he told Hannity that he respects the “rule of law,” and that when the Supreme Court issued its opinion legalizing same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, “that’s the law of the land. It became,” he said.
Prior to the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Prime Minister Johnson said abortion should be left to each state.
However, he has earned an “A+” rating from the powerful anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony (SBA) Pro-Life America, and is a co-sponsor and advocate of a bill that would place federal restrictions on abortion. be.
SBA Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement that the group wants Johnson to win against abortion.
“We are excited about the selection of Chairman Johnson and look forward to working closely with him to advance national protections for unborn children,” she said.
In an email to The Hill, Dannenfelser specifically praised Johnson for leading a House resolution condemning attacks on anti-abortion facilities and groups.
“There is still much work to be done, which is why we need to unite the pro-life House majority under Speaker Johnson’s leadership to stand firm against the pro-abortion policies demanded by today’s Democrats.” There is,” she said.
Democrats across the country are waging a fight over abortion. Forcing Republicans in Biden’s districts to vote on anti-abortion legislation could be problematic, since a key job of the speaker is to protect and increase majority-held seats.
For example, a bill to permanently codify and expand the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits certain federal funds from being used for abortion procedures, will be passed in the first few weeks by House Republicans with their new majority. It was included in the list of 12 bills scheduled.
However, this bill was never introduced to the floor.
Severino, who headed the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration, said the bill is a “low-hanging fruit” for Johnson to support.
He said Johnson would likely be given more freedom by traditional Republican stalwarts, especially given his unanimous selection within the conference.
“He has a honeymoon-like period and he needs to make the most of it,” Severino said. “He has this opportunity, this window of goodwill, and I hope he uses it to put in place good pro-life policies.”
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