Mike Johnson Takes the Helm as House Speaker Amidst Tumultuous Domestic and International Challenges
WASHINGTON – After an unexpected three-week leadership vacuum resulting from the removal of Kevin McCarthy, the House finally found its new Speaker on Wednesday: Republican Representative Mike Johnson of Louisiana. But as America looked towards its political reshuffling, a tragic event in Lewiston, Maine, unfolded, becoming one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, claiming at least 18 lives.
Internationally, Chinese analysts have expressed concerns about the current U.S. political climate, emphasizing the complexities that ongoing power dynamics between Democrats and Republicans might pose to both domestic and foreign policies.
Johnson’s Rise and Its Potential Impact
With Johnson’s ascent to the role of House Speaker, experts predict an expansion of fiscal conservatism in the House. This shift in policy may make it increasingly challenging for President Joe Biden’s administration to find common ground with Republicans on pivotal issues. Notably, supporting Ukraine and mitigating potential future shutdowns may now come with more substantial roadblocks.
Chinese scholars on U.S. affairs also forecast a more assertive approach by the House towards backing Donald Trump for the 2024 Presidential elections. They believe there will be an effort to shield the former President from ongoing legal investigations initiated by Democrats.
Johnson, known for his staunch opposition to China and as a member of the “Congressional Taiwan Caucus,” which backs “Taiwan secessionism,” could adopt a more confrontational approach than his predecessors, potentially escalating tensions in China-U.S. relations.
Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy’s respective stances towards China have been observed to sour over time. With Johnson’s election, concerns arise that this trend of deteriorating sentiments might continue, further straining diplomatic ties. Observers stress the importance for the U.S. to address this issue to foster a healthier bilateral relationship.
A Decisive Victory for Johnson
Demonstrating strong support within his party, Johnson clinched the Speaker’s gavel without a single GOP vote against him. The final count was 220 votes favoring Johnson against 209 for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Media outlets, including CNN, underscore Johnson’s close ties with former President Donald Trump. As evidence of this alliance, Johnson played a significant role in the controversial efforts to overturn the 2020 election outcome in Trump’s favor. His involvement extended to soliciting support from every House Republican for a long-shot lawsuit in Texas that aimed to nullify electoral college votes from several states.
Lü Xiang, a renowned expert on U.S. studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, voiced his perspective to the Global Times, expressing certainty that the House Republicans will rally behind Trump more cohesively. “The inter-party tug-of-war is not subsiding. Instead, it’s intensifying,” he commented.
Challenges Loom Large for the New Speaker
Immediate challenges await Johnson. Among them, CNN highlights the looming threat of a government shutdown. With the government’s funding set to run out on November 17th, the GOP-majority House must cooperate with the Democratic-controlled Senate to prevent this. Apart from this, legislative considerations regarding aid to Ukraine and Israel are also on the agenda.
The catastrophic shooting in Maine further underscores the sharp divide on issues such as gun control. Such incidents could exacerbate the already deep chasm between the two major parties, potentially leading to greater societal fragmentation.
“Johnson, along with his Republican counterparts in the House, will likely push the Biden administration to recalibrate its support for Ukraine, especially in light of the ongoing Gaza conflict and Israel’s increasing demands for military and economic aid,” noted Lü.
Johnson: A “China Hawk”
The Voice of America (VOA) describes Johnson as a prominent “China hawk” within the House, highlighting his aggressive stance on multiple China-related issues, from the Taiwan Straits to COVID-19 and sanctions against Chinese officials.
Yet, amidst these strained relations, the upcoming APEC meeting in San Francisco may present an opportunity for a reset or, at the very least, a reevaluation of U.S-China policies. “It remains to be seen how Johnson and the Republicans will shape the U.S.’ approach towards China in the coming weeks,” commented Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, speaking to the Global Times.