Speaker Mike Johnson is sworn in as House Speaker. Photo: NBC News on Instagram

The upcoming year promises to be an active political season, with debates over foreign aid to Ukraine and Israel, new budgets, culture wars and a presidential election looming around the corner. The House of Representatives will be a key battleground for many of these issues, and much hinges on the leadership of the newly elected Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson.

In October, Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson was narrowly elected to become Speaker of the House. His successful vote came after a long battle to decide McCarthy’s successor; Johnson was the fourth Republican to be nominated. Although he was able to unite both moderate and far-right Republicans under pressure to choose a leader, his past decisions have been very conservative.

The speaker’s primary role is to determine the agenda for the House and to be the spokesperson in their legislative decisions. But the role is more than decorative. The speaker oversees committee assignments and accounting as well as structures the procedure for floor debates over bills.

Much of the burden of negotiation between the parties and the executive and legislative branches is placed on the speaker. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted after his messy handling of protracted fights over a budget bill needed to avoid a government shutdown. McCarthy angered far-right members of his party when he attempted to compromise with Democrats on budgeting, and the Republicans voted him out.

Johnson will have to walk a fine line in maintaining support from the majority of House members while simultaneously trying to pass necessary legislation. He is relatively inexperienced compared to McCarthy, CNN reports. He was only elected to represent Louisiana in 2016 and has much less of a national reputation.

Johnson’s most controversial decision was his vote to overturn the 2020 election after Former President Donald Trump lost. During the elections for Speaker of the House he downplayed his role in the conspiracy, but his ascension might signal continued support for Trump in Congress. Trump endorsed Johnson, showing Trump’s continued influence in national politics.

One of the most important issues in the next year will be foreign policy. There is huge political conflict over funding for both Israel and Ukraine. Previously, Johnson voted with many other Republicans to end military and financial support for Ukraine, NBC reports, which might signal a more isolationist stance.

However, Johnson proposed a bill that would give over 14 billion dollars in aid to Israel. The spending is funded by cuts to the IRS budget.The budget cuts have been popular among Republicans who support less tax audits, but the Congressional Budgeting Office warns that the cuts would cause the government to lose money because of decreased tax revenue. 

The bill includes no aid for Ukraine. As the war continues and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy pushes for greater Western funding, there are heightened worries about whether the United States can be counted on to support efforts to counter the Russian invasion.

Johnson’s bill passed the House but it remains to be seen whether aid will be supported by the other branches. “The White House has already threatened Biden will veto the bill,” Fox News writes. Democrat and Majority Leader of the Senate Chuck Shumer announced the Senate is currently writing a separate bill that would also include support for Ukraine and humanitarian aid for Gaza, which has been damaged by Israeli air strikes.

The House will also be a combative spot for culture wars, which will undoubtedly continue into the next year, especially with the presidential elections coming up. The new speaker is a member of the Southern Baptist Church and swings quite conservative on social issues. Johnson wrote a bill to prevent federal funding from going towards education on LGBTQ+ issues for children under 10, which opponents criticized as more “Don’t say gay” rhetoric. The bill didn’t pass, but a speaker with such staunch support for controversial issues may have a difficult time unifying the House. 

However, according to the New York Times, Johnson’s calm temperament “is a departure from Mr. Trump’s brash and aggressive style” and could bring more civility back to politics, although his views sometimes align with Trump and other far-right conservatives. This view might help hold the House together in the upcoming political season, but either way, the country can expect a contentious political landscape.

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