Even those who would vote against him in Louisiana’s Fourth Congressional District should be pleased with certain dual reelections of Bossier City Republican Rep. Mike Johnson, which along with the extremely likely reelection of the First District’s Metairie GOP Rep. Steve Scalise will bring power unseen in history to the state’s congressional delegation.
No one filed to run against Johnson in the Nov. 8 election, automatically reelecting him. Scalise picked up only token opposition that makes him overwhelmingly likely to retain his seat. Yet as importantly it’s just as probable as a Scalise win that Republicans will retake the House of Representatives, bringing Louisiana great clout because of the pair’s leadership positions.
Parties in Congress have a formal leadership structure diffused by a parallel system of party committees. In the GOP, Scalise ranks below only California’s Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is overwhelmingly likely to become the Speaker of the House in early 2023, so Scalise would assume the majority leader’s position as second-in-command. Johnson is vice chairman of the Republican Conference, the organization of all party members that makes decisions regarding leadership and committee spots, formally appointing McCarthy, Scalise, Johnson, and other officials.
Johnson might have moved up a spot to become Conference chairman, but that depended upon New York’s GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik wanting to move up to the third-ranking spot in the majority, Scalise’s current job of whip who serves as an intermediary between leadership and members and secures votes from party members on floor business. She deferred, which set off a scramble for others serving in various other positions in party committees and the deputy whip to jockey for the whip’s job.
One might have thought Johnson, who serves as an assistant whip, could vault himself into that position even if Stefanik passed on it. The problem is, interestingly enough, Scalise, specifically that both come from Louisiana. Keep in mind that at present as well as what looks going forward to 2023-24 and likely beyond the state will have two of the top positions in the party. It would be a stretch for a state that sends one to two dozen Republicans to the House such as Texas or Florida to have two of their own in the upper reaches of leadership, much less Louisiana that has just five total and ranks in the middle of states with total representation.
So, despite the high regard in which Johnson is held by his fellow party members – prior to his Conference position he helmed the Republican Study Committee, perhaps the most prestigious caucus among Republicans devoted to policy – geographic considerations might cap his ascent for now. Still, he will almost certainly become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and move up in seniority to become chairman of that committee or the Armed Services Committee, important for the two prominent military bases in the district and the others in the state.
Scalise, of course, will ascend to the highest position a Louisianan ever has held in the body, with the possibility of becoming the most powerful Louisiana politician ever if he attains speaker before his career ends. (With all due respect, Whig Pres. Zachary Taylor spent only a few years in the state.) Together, these two will bring more leadership clout to the state’s benefit than ever.