In a weekend story, The Advocate’s Bryn Stole outlined the Louisiana delegation’s generally reduced prospects for influence in the new Congress. Among the unavoidable conclusions: Steve Scalise, who will go from majority to minority whip, will become a less visible figure, and Cedric Richmond, the state’s lone Democrat, will gain influence in a newly created assistant whip position on the majority side.
Another conclusion is that a relatively new member of the delegation could emerge as someone to watch.
U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, who was just elected to his second term from the 4th district based in northwest Louisiana, has been chosen to head of the Republican Study Committee, a large caucus of House conservatives.
There’s been some reporting out of Washington that Johnson’s politics put him more in line with the Freedom Caucus, basically the descendants of the old Tea Party group, and even casts him as a stealth double agent. If true, that might make a difference under other circumstances.
With Republicans in the majority, relations between the RSC and the Freedom Caucus — call it the right and the far right — sometimes strained under the weight of having to actually govern. Measures meant to attract the dwindling moderate Republicans and even some Democrats could alienate the most conservative representatives. In fact, one of Scalise’s selling points as whip was that he could bridge the divide, but when it came down to it, his job demanded that he side with the rest of the leadership.
But starting in January, those challenges will be largely irrelevant. The shellacking Republicans took in November cost them both the power to set the House’s agenda and the seats held by many of those moderates. The resulting GOP membership is both more uniformly conservative and less burdened by the demands of forming coalitions and passing policies that would keep government functioning.
In a situation like this, someone like Johnson could well emerge as a visible spokesman for a more cohesive opposition.
The Democrats, though, have the ultimate power. They have enough votes to simply ignore him.