Speaker Mike Johnson Made History, But It Might Not Be For The Right Reasons

After Kevin McCarthy was ousted as Speaker of the House in early October 2023, multiple candidates vied for the prestigious position, each one unsuccessful in their efforts. Finally, on October 25, Republican Louisiana Representative Mike Johnson was voted as the newest member of the House of Representatives to be seated at the high chair. The Speaker of the House is third-highest U.S. government position in the country, with only the U.S. President and Vice President ahead in the chain of command.

With his official swearing-in, Johnson, the father of four kids, achieved the distinction of being the first Speaker of the House from the state of Louisiana. And while that factoid earns him a place of honor in Louisiana's history, in the world of politics, it's not the most significant detail that stands out for the Shreveport native.

Johnson is the least experienced politico ever to be elected as the Speaker of the House. Louisiana's 4th District representative has only been a member of Congress for seven years, the shortest amount of time in the last 140 years that anyone has served before holding the position.

His lack of time in Congress could be a hindrance

When sworn in as Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson had spent only seven years in the House of Representatives. To put things in perspective, his predecessor Kevin McCarthy had 16 years before holding the title, and Nancy Pelosi, the glass-ceiling breaker who held the position before McCarthy, had 20 years under her belt. In fact, Johnson is the only Speaker of the House for over 120 years who has started the position with less than 12 years of experience, with most serving between 20 and 30 years.

The lack of time Johnson has put into serving Congress could wind up showing as he presses on with his duties. Johnson, who is in a covenant marriage with his wife Kelly, is supposed to lead all 435 members of the House of Representatives. But with only seven years in attendance, he's hardly had a chance to establish relationships with even the most important and long-standing members. 

Before the election that put the Louisiana citizen at the top, several senators shared they hadn't met him. Fellow Republican and Senator Mitt Romney remarked to NBC News that he wasn't very familiar with Johnson, and it would "be interesting to see how the House runs if they choose a speaker that has no experience in leadership or as a committee chair."

Johnson may need more experience to succeed

The Speaker of the House is not an inactive role, and there are multiple responsibilities that go with guiding the members of the House of Representatives. Newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson will preside over the group, help organize debates and push through votes about legislation, and act as a liaison between the House and other Washington officials, as well as the public at large. Also, as PBS explains, "The speaker oversees everything from accounting to procurement for the House." 

While Johnson has served on the committees that help run the governing body, he has never served as a chair, or a leader, of any of them. Since chairs are chosen by seniority, his seven-year tenure puts him at the bottom of candidates. He's also never served as House minority or majority leader, a title both McCarthy and Pelosi claimed.

Then there's fundraising. In November 2024, several elections could wind up flipping the House of Representatives from a Republican majority to a Democratic one. The Speaker of the House traditionally helps raise funds in support of those elections. Johnson hasn't had time to hobnob with CEOs and political supporters in higher income brackets, and has raised only $1 million since being sworn in; McCarthy raised $500 million for the 2022 election. To match his predecessor, Johnson will need to raise about $9 million a week for the next year. If he does, he may have a better reason to make it into the history books.